It’s no secret that breaking bread together builds community. With a concept known as Gather, Jones Valley Teaching Farm (JVTF) has transformed the idea of a simple dinner party into an engine for change for school children throughout the Birmingham area. On Saturday, May 16th, food lovers around town opened their homes, restaurants, and even breweries to host 22 different dinners and over 400 guests, with all proceeds going to benefit the JVTF Good School Food program.

Good School Food (GSF) works with pre-K through 12th-grade students in Birmingham City Schools to teach them about the health, social, and economic benefits of good food. From learning how to grow their own produce to managing a student-run farmers’ market, the GSF kids work with full-time JVTF instructors to learn how food can empower them and affect change.

The Gather community loves good food, as well as the farmers who cultivate it, the tables where we eat it, and the bon vivant attitude of the folks who share it. This singular evening became a de facto city-wide supper club, full of tastemakers and style setters with heart. 

Atlanta chef Ryan Smith (of the soon-to-open Staplehouse restaurant in Atlanta; formerly at Empire State South) prepared an elaborate 4-course dinner in the home of Lydia and Taylor Pursell. Miguel Figueroa from Kudzu Noodle Bar in Montgomery teamed up with Good People Brewing Company for a noodle- and beef-packed feast. Robin Bashinsky of Cooking Light—and frequent contributor to the Swingshift Popup dinner series—grilled up a meat bonanza. And though the dinners ranged from elaborate sit-down meals to casual backyard affairs, they all served awareness for the Good School Food program. Be sure to grab a seat the next time JVTF says to Gather.

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ABOVE Style maven Heather Chadduck transformed her Forest Park front porch into an alfresco oasis of chic with a Southern blue-and-white theme (her favorite colors). The bowls are Bunny Williams for Ballard Designs. Vintage linens are from John Derian. Photo by Hector Sanchez

ABOVE Robin Bashinsky of Cooking Light mans the grill at his all-out meat bonanza.


ABOVE LEFT A place setting framed by fresh-cut peonies at Lydia and Taylor Pursell’s Gather dinner. 

ABOVE RIGHT Brian McMillan mixes a farro salad by hand for his backyard dinner.

Gather is a community of people who have come together to raise money and awareness for the Good School Food program of Jones Valley Teaching Farm. Good School Food teaches about food through cross-curricular, hands-on instruction to empower pre-K to 12th-grade students in Birmingham City Schools to be the next generation of critical thinkers, problem solvers, and change agents in their communities.

VODKA? Yes, please.

Sure, we love wine, but there’s something extra festive about starting off a dinner party with a killer cocktail. Cathead Distillery, out of Jackson, Mississippi, donated their Cathead Honeysuckle Vodka for the evening of Gather dinners. Here are four of their favorite summer cocktails, sure to get any party going.

Mississippi Mule
Stir together ½ ounce fresh lime juice, 2 ½ ounces. Cathead Honeysuckle Vodka, and 6 ounces ginger beer. Serve in a copper mug over cracked ice. Garnish with lime wedge. 

Bee Sting
Muddle 1-2 jalapeño slices in a cocktail shaker. Add 2 ounces Cathead Honeysuckle Vodka, 1 ounce clover honey, 1 ounce fresh lemon juice, and cracked ice. Shake together and then strain into glass. Garnish with jalapeño slice.

Honeysuckle Lemonade 
Pour 2 ounces Cathead Honeysuckle Vodka and 4 ounces fresh squeezed lemonade over crushed ice in a lowball glass. Garnish with basil and lemon wedge.

Honey Bubble
Pour 1 ounces Cathead Honeysuckle Vodka into a champagne flute. Top with 4 ounces brut champagne. Garnish with 2 fresh raspberries.

text by jennifer v. cole • photos by Rob Culpepper and HECTOR SANCHEZ

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