Try not to judge Robbie Nowlin too harshly when you first meet him. We could call the six-foot four-inch chef (whose kitchen lineage includes The Lodge, The French Laundry, La Canarias and currently Citrus at Hotel Valencia, as head chef no less) with the ridiculous dimples a stud, but he knows that. He also knows how egos can get wildly out of proportion in this "celebuchef" era we live in. This time, he's using his good looks and playful, yet technique-driven food for good.
Nowlin, along with artist BFF Justin Parr, chefs Gary Alsup and Jeff Wiley, and Southtown's most stylish resident, Mike Casey, are teaming up to launch Wicked Nights at Wickes (#wickednightsatwickes), a new monthly supper club inside the home of late artist and shop-owner Craig Pennel on Wickes Street (where Nowlin currently resides). Pennel, who passed away this summer, was known for his love and support of the arts, and his being, as Casey (Pennel's landlord for 10 years and close friend for much longer than that) put it, the "ultimate host."
The dinners will kick off this Sunday, December 21, with Jeff Wiley, but don't hold your breath for tickets just yet. Nowlin will share details through social media and a lottery system will determine the 16 attendees, who will then be tasked with bringing a package of 20 tortillas, a carton of eggs and a package of bacon as their donation. The next day, Nowlin and Parr will prepare tacos, pack them up and distribute them to people in need throughout the community.
"I think we have to remember why we do what we do ... at the end of the day our jobs are about nourishing each other," said Nowlin, father to a precocious four-year-old. "There's nothing better than when your tummy's full, and you're going night-night."
The RK Group, which donates turkeys and kitchen support for the Raul Jimenez Thanksgiving Dinner, and the Feast of Sharing, will cover food costs, as well as a bar set up (Jeret Peña will pour the cocktails) and other tableware.
And although he will whip up hors d'oeuvres, Nowlin will once again remove his own ego during these dinners and give up the spotlight to other chefs, including Wiley (who will kick things off with a seven-course affair), Rebecca Masson (of Houston's Fluff Bake Bar), Stefan Bowers (Feast), Jason Dady, Matt McCallister (Dallas' FT33) and Oaxaca's Susana Trilling.
"We want people to one-up each other while trying to help others," Nowlin said.
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