When she was in her late 20s, Christine Simpson began a tradition of dinner parties with her friends. It’s a tradition that has strengthened friendships and yielded her cooking philosophy.
Christine, who goes by Chris, said her weekly dinner parties with friends made the friendships something more, they made these people her family.
“It created a family of friends,” she said. “What do you do with your family? You feed them.”
She and her friends wanted to be more adventuresome, so she began experimenting more with her cooking and her philosophy emerged.
“Be fearless,” Chris said. “Trust your palette.”
Trusting her palette has motivated her to cook creative dishes for Peaceful Paths’ Guest Chef event the past 16 years. Participating every year, Chris likes making substantial main courses that are yummy and easy to transport.
Last year, transporting and preparing her meal for the event was a challenge, she said. She made ham and cheese sliders that needed to stay hot. So, she tried creating a heating oven with hot bricks inside a cooler. A great idea, but instead, it created a steamer, leaving her scraping melted cheese back into the sliders.
Looking back, she laughs at the small difficulties with last year’s meal and has taken them into account when choosing what to make this year. As a chef for the 2017 Guest Chef Cocktail Party, she’s preparing grilled salmon with Asian barbecue sauce.
Chris has been retired for two and a half years. She worked for the University of Florida for 32 years and has been volunteering her time to Peaceful Paths for about 40 years, starting when the shelter was called SPARCC.
She doesn’t remember having an a-ha moment that drove her to volunteering for the domestic violence shelter. “I don’t know why, I wanted to get involved with something and this just seemed right,” she said.
Since she started her involvement with Peaceful Paths, Chris has been on the Board of Trustees and regularly participates in Guest Chef and other events. More than anything, she is proud of being an activist who can spread domestic violence awareness in the community. She has sent women to seek help at the shelter in the past. For her, Guest Chef is a fun event supporting a cause she’s passionate about. It reminds her of the power and comfort of food and friends together.
“It brings people together,” she said. “It’s like an extended dinner table and that’s where friends and family belong.”
Tickets for the 16th Annual Guest Chef Cocktail Party are on sale now. You can purchase tickets and learn more about the event at www.guestchefgainesville.com!