Published August 5, 2021 at 9:19pm.
Story by Kathryn Lomuscio. Photos by Jan Osborn.
Ronald McDonald House of Dallas (RMHD) has been a fixture in Dallas for the last forty years. During that time, they have had the opportunity to be a home-away-from-home for 40,000 families who needed a safe place to land, free of charge, while in town for medical care. In celebration of these milestones, RMHD has released Come to the Table, presented by LiquidAgents Healthcare, a commemorative cookbook featuring delicious recipes that highlight the love of family through food. The cookbook contains recipes sent from forty chefs from around the country who, at no cost to RMHD, shared recipes that were near and dear to their hearts and are expressions of love in their home. The cookbook features recipes from a diverse array of cultures, cooking styles, ethnicities and chef experiences—all of which hold deep, personal meaning to the chefs who shared them. It has something that everyone will love, from family favorites to desserts and pastries.
When RMHD had to make the choice to cancel their annual spring gala, they were looking for a new way to celebrate and raise funds for the families they serve.
“A big part of what we do is feed families and the idea of a cookbook was born. It could be focused on families, share our history, and serve as a keepsake of our 40th anniversary,” said Jill Cumnock, CEO of RMHD. “We were thrilled to get all the chefs that we did who participated and who shared their family recipes. We knew that we still needed to raise funds for our families not to have to pay to stay here—they have enough financial stress. Sales from this book will directly benefit the families we serve, so we are grateful for each and every chef that has offered their time and talent to this cookbook. The way Come to the Table has been created reminds me of a recipe that culminates in a feast for the senses. We can’t think of a better way to celebrate our 40th Anniversary, particularly at a time when families are starting to reunite after the pandemic forced so many apart.”
When Jill thinks of food and family she thinks of her grandmother’s Louisiana cooking, her mother’s casseroles, and her husband who is the primary cook in their family these days. She loves baking and is really looking forward to digging into the baking section of the book.
Chef Uno Immanivong, owner and visionary behind Dallas restaurants Chino Chinatown, Red Stix Asian Street Food, and Chef Uno Catering, served as the Honorary Chef Chair for Come to the Table. She was thrilled to be a part of the making of the collaborative cookbook because she has a passion for the work that Ronald McDonald House does in the Dallas community and beyond.
“The people at RMHD are healthcare heroes,” she shares.
Chef Uno had the opportunity to work firsthand with RMHD through catering during the pandemic and was appreciative of the support they gave her. She was also grateful for the chance to provide substantial, healthy food for several groups who serve on the frontline in Dallas, including RMHD.
The recipe that Chef Uno chose to include in Come to the Table, Duck Fat Fried Rice, was heavily influenced by the fried rice her Laotian mother would make, and has deep connotations of family and love for her.
“My mom never wasted a thing when we were growing up. We pretty much had some form of fried rice for every meal. When I opened up Chino Chinatown, I wanted to make my family recipes something that people would talk about,” Chef Uno says. “Chino was eventually known for this Duck Fat Fried Rice—the combination of all the flavors, seared in the wok, it’s so delicious and a great meal.”
RMHD is more than just a place for out-of-town families to rest their heads—it truly is a home away from home for families who are going through an especially hard time with their child’s health. They strive to make each family feel comfortable and to provide for any needs that might arise during their stay in Dallas. In addition to their 89 rooms, they have kitchens, laundry facilities, family rooms on each floor, a dining room, media rooms, game rooms, and more. They even have a splash pad and outdoor fireplace with rocking chairs to make things extra cozy. All meals are provided and are either made and served by volunteers or catered. They also provide activities for the families, like Bingo night.
Staying at the RMHD helps pave the way for parents to have fewer things on their minds so that they can rest better at night and be better equipped to make decisions about and support their child’s medical care. It’s also a place where special bonds are made and support found from other families who are walking through similarly difficult times.
“I remember meeting a family from Wisconsin who had a son with a cranio-facial disorder so he had a different look to him and needed multiple surgeries. His father told me that they had been coming to Dallas for a while for treatments and would stay at a hotel close to the hospital,” Jill recalls. “They would go to breakfast and there would be a lot of people who would just kind of stare at his son. He said the beautiful part about RMHD was that no one looked twice at his son and it made life so much easier when he could just be a kid here and that no one looked at him differently. Being here normalizes life for these kids and gives the parents a chance to meet other parents who are going through something similar. They create these incredible friendships and support each other in that. It makes their journey a little bit easier and makes all the difference in the world. They are also so understanding and appreciative of all that we are doing for them—they take the time to say thank you for a meal that we are providing them, and it just amazes me.”
RMHD could not support families the way it does without the help of community volunteers. Under normal circumstances, they have volunteers who answer phones, give tours, provide and serve meals, or host activities. During the pandemic, volunteer opportunities had been scaled back but are now slowly returning.
“We are taking our time to make sure that we aren’t doing anything too quickly and have all the protocols we need to keep our kids safe and healthy because most of our kids are immunocompromised and under the age of 12,” Jill says. “Everyone who comes in must be vaccinated. We are still wearing masks and taking it slow. We are only at about 35% capacity at the moment, but we haven’t had any cases spread here and we just have to keep at it. I look forward to the day when we can have all of our volunteers here at RMHD again.”
Jill says that they are currently accepting donations to cater meals or a group can cater a meal themselves. There are also opportunities to help at the Addison Rotary or Trains at North Park—their signature fundraising event of the year. She made sure to mention that another incredible way to support their work is to buy Come to the Table.
Come to the Table is available now for sale for $40 and would be a perfect personal keepsake or gift for a loved one. To order a cookbook and for more information, visit rmhdallas.org/events/40th-anniversary.
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