Talk about going to great heights for a charitable project: On May 13, a group of Dallas chefs will be rappelling down Reunion Tower. The chefs are swallowing their fear of heights to participate in the Shatterproof Challenge Rappel, where they will rappel down the tower, which, in case you did not know it, is 50 stories tall and 561 feet in the air.
Participating chefs include Stephan Pyles, Alex Astranti, Katherine Clapner, Molly Mandell, Matt McCallister, Aaron Staudenmaier, Nathan Tate, Tim Byres, and Angela Hernandez.
The rappel benefits Shatterproof, a nonprofit dedicated to ending the devastation and stigma caused by the disease of addiction. The Dallas rappel is the first of the national 2017 Shatterproof Challenge Rappel which takes place in five cities across the country.
Shatterproof is based in New York and was founded by Gary Mendell after the death of his son, Brian. The organization provides families with resources to support prevention, treatment, and recovery. It also advocates for changes in federal and state policy and supports the development and implementation of evidence-based solutions for substance-use disorders.
Chef Aaron Staudenmaier (Lovers Seafood and Market, Shinsei), is participating because he once struggled with addiction.
"That's why I answer the phone at 3 am when a friend calls struggling to stay sober, to stay sane, to keep it together one more day," he says. "It's why I am so incredibly proud to participate in the Shatterproof Challenge Rappel, in honor of the names of those in my life who fell too early."
Rapscallion chef Nathan Tate says that his personal experiences mirror the industry at large.
"I've battled an addiction to alcohol in the past, and it's prevalent in this industry," he says. "If you're in the restaurant industry, it affects you every day."
But Tate's also excited just for the extreme element of the event.
"To hang off Reunion Tower in Dallas? That's a one-in-a-lifetime event," he says. "I don't think I have a fear of heights, but I don't think I've ever been that high hanging by a rope."
Participants can either rappel 50 stories from the top of Reunion Tower, or 10 stories from the roof of Hyatt Regency Dallas. Hundreds are expected to rappel. All funds raised through the event go directly to Shatterproof's advocacy efforts and provide trusted, evidence-based resources for families.
Shatterproof spokesperson Caroline Hartman says that participants will get on-site training and will have an instructor talking them through the process.
"Once they train you, it's in your hands how quickly you go down," she says. "The rappel is such a positive experience where you're forced to rely a lot on yourself, and is symbolic of the solitary effort needed from individuals in recovery."
The experience is open to anyone, and no previous rappelling experience is needed — or you can just come and watch. For more information or to sign up to rappel, visit RappelDallas.org. There is also a raffle with prizes such as dinner for 2 at Flora Street Cafe, and gift certificates at restaurants such as Uchi Dallas and FT33. Anyone who donates $50 to their team is entered to win; here's the link to donate.
"One of the reasons Shatterproof has begun working with Chefs is because so many prominent chefs are currently in recovery, and are openly talking about it," Hartman says. "We believe in having less darkness around addiction, in bringing it out into the light."