Chef John Alunni cooks to benefit Second Harvest
Nancy Anderson, Shopper News
Chef John Alunni, owner of the Cutting Edge Classroom on 817 North Herron Road, gave Second Harvest Food Bank a $2,000 boost with a spaghetti dinner fundraiser at the Cutting Edge on Dec. 23.
“We scratch made about 300 spaghetti dinners with scratch-made noodles and meatballs for anyone who wanted to come. There was curbside pickup, and donations to Second Harvest Food Bank were accepted but not required.”
Alunni said he had about 30 pounds of pasta left over, which was donated to KARM.
About 15 volunteers from Facebook group “Knoxville Foodies” helped prepare 80 pounds of pasta and 600 meatballs.
More than 1,000 bread rolls were donated from Texas Roadhouse, Subway and private donors.
“We had about 15 volunteers from Knoxville Foodies who helped out all day. Making all that pasta from scratch and meatballs from scratch was a mammoth effort, but they worked hard and got it done. We had a great time cooking together for a good cause. Then several hung around to help distribute the meals curbside. People just drove through, made a donation and were handed a delicious spaghetti dinner from scratch.”
“I wanted a bigger turnout, but we raised $2,000 and fed hundreds of people so it turned out for the best. We’ll do this again next year, but maybe a week earlier — not so close to Christmas.”
Hunger on the rise during pandemic
Alunni said he wanted to do this for Second Harvest Food Bank because people are going hungry in Knoxville.
“With all our money and resources, it’s crazy to me that people are going hungry.
“After it was all said and done, I put it out there that I had leftovers. A family came in that was hungry. We gave them all the food they could handle and they perked right up. It made us all feel good to make them feel good. I knew then that we were doing the right thing.”
Alunni is no stranger to curbside service. He saved his school during the pandemic shutdown by offering ready-made curbside dinners for Easter and Mother’s Day along with everyday fare.
He posted a menu on his website for people to purchase, just as they would a cooking class, then offered a three-hour window to pick up the dinners. It was a success.
“It took a lot of organizing to offer the meals curbside. It wasn’t like coming into a restaurant and ordering, nor could you just show up. You had to advance purchase the meal on the website so I’d know how much to cook. I wanted no waste. Easter and Mother’s Day were a particular success. We did a lot of different stuff to stay open during that time … and after … until we got the virtual classes together.”
Alunni is currently offering in-person classes adhering to all the pandemic guidelines; virtual classes, and virtual private classes, which have grown in popularity.
WORDS OF FAITH
John Tirro, Shopper News
It really does come down to loving one another
On the fifth day of Christmas, there were no “five gold rings,” just a strong case of cabin fever and a beautiful drive into the national park, to breathe clean air and appreciate God’s creation.
The roads had melted clear of recent snow and ice, and the roadside river was swollen with runoff. White foam formed as it tumbled over rocks, with a hint of copper patina green to the water, just below the white, as the sun hit the minerals in the churning flow. The pattern of patches of not yet melted snow, alternating with bright green moss and dark brown dirt up the mountain, was continuous with the pattern of white foam alternating with darker water in the river.
It was early, and the mist was still rising, hanging heavy in the valley, lit from within by sunlight angling around every next turn in the road. Sheets of icicles dripped from overhanging cliff faces as the road wound its way to Laurel Falls, where I hoped to beat the crowds to see 80 feet of frozen falls.
When I got there, cars were in the lot, but not so many that we couldn’t all safely distance, spaced along the 1.3 mile trail, and I had my mask, and so did the family ahead of me, for times when, even outdoors, we’d pass close enough that it would be good to keep our breath to ourselves. In case you’re finding this article years later, wrapped around a long ago stored away Christmas ornament, this is written in the time of coronavirus, when East Tennessee is the epicenter of the pandemic.
On the way up, it was easy to distance, 30, 40 feet between families and near-infinite dispersal of air making it so we all could enjoy nature safely, but by the time I got to the top, 50 yards ahead I could see people had not waited for ones in front to finish viewing the falls and clear out before crowding in. They were shoulder to shoulder, maybe one in 10 masked, so I headed back down. As I went, more and more unmasked people were making the climb, 2 feet apart, 3 feet apart, clusters of 10 and 20, few masked and, of course, many huffing and puffing as they went. I left the trail to keep distance, but boy howdy were my former trail mates tightly packed.
Folks, I dearly hope we dodge the viral bullet, that none of our parents or children — or our children’s parents — die or permanently lose lung function the next few weeks, as a result of our little day hike. I also want us to have our freedom, to enjoy beautiful things like a walk to a frozen waterfall. Christians, I ask you. Jesus carried a heavy wooden cross, to which he was nailed and left to die, that all might live. Is it really such an imposition, to carry a strip of cloth on your face and wait once in a while?
John Tirro is pastor of music and campus ministry at St. John’s Lutheran Church. Info: sjlcknox.org.
Ali James, Shopper News
Johnson University hopes to build on success, attract soccer talent
Johnson University women’s soccer head coach Todd Halliburton played soccer growing up, but it was not until his then 5-year-old niece’s team needed a soccer coach that he turned his hand to coaching.
“I was a middle and high school coach, had my referee certification and hosted a soccer radio show. I have done a little bit of everything,” said Halliburton.
“The opportunity to coach the Johnson University Royals opened up last year. I wasn’t looking to be a coach,” he said. “It is the perfect scenario, being a pastor and a coach at a local school that is also a Christian school.”
Johnson women were region champs
Halliburton has been a teaching pastor for the past 28 years, mostly in youth ministry, and has been at the West Lonsdale Baptist Church since 2005. Halliburton served as the wedding officiant for Emily Ann Roberts, a finalist on “The Voice.”
The Royals program was in good shape when Haliburton took over. “They had just come off one of their best seasons,” he said. “They were low on numbers, but they had been doing a fantastic job of elevating it.”
As for the 2020-21 season, the team made it to the finals and defeated Grace Christian (Michigan) to clinch the Mideast Region Tournament championship. Despite losing against Randall University in the national championship, Halliburton said they had a good run, elevated their level of competition and set the groundwork for the next season.
“We are hoping to use some of this success going forward,” he said. “Knoxville has a ton of soccer talent on the women’s side of things, and they usually go to Tusculum or Maryville — and Johnson has been recruited over.”
Halliburton said Johnson University is a good option for students wishing to attend a university close to home. The women’s soccer team currently boasts six all-region players, two All-Americans on the team.
Huge commitment to athletics
“We opened the athletic recreation center in 2019,” said Halliburton. “It is a 45-acre dual usage recreational and athletic facility, and with that we have a new soccer field.” Before that, the soccer team played their home games at South-Doyle High School.
Married to his high school girlfriend, Leanne, three of their children are involved in Johnson University’s soccer programs. His daughter Courtney is a coach, sophomore Rylee plays on the team and son Dylan is a freshman on the men’s team.
Soccer training held in-house
Technical training at the beginning of every practice is led by Tim McMahan. “We jokingly call it Tim time and focus on first touch and ball control,” said Halliburton. “When we are recruiting, we promise that they will be a better soccer player when they leave here.”
“My daughter Courtney handles the defensive coaching,” said Halliburton. “Megan Williams was a four-year player at Milligan and handles our game strategy. Courtney and Megan were both female college athletes, and it is important to have that on our staff.
Don’t wait to be scouted
“I would say to every high school athlete, just because a college isn’t knocking on your door doesn’t mean you can’t go to college and play,” said Halliburton. “The reality is that most schools have very small recruiting budgets; they can’t go out and watch kids play and go to club tournaments or attend games during the high school season. They rely on recruiting videos. You need to email the coach and let them know you are interested in their school.”
35 North, Farragut’s first food truck park and bar, opens for business
Saul Young, Brenna McDermott
Farragut’s first food truck park held its grand opening on Tuesday, Dec. 29, to great anticipation and large crowds.
35 North food truck park and bar, at 11321 Kingston Pike, stayed busy throughout the day. Vehicles circled the parking lot looking for an open space, with much of the parking spilling over to nearby businesses.
“It’s been steady all day and that’s what we want,” said co-owner Carlos Cortez. Cortez and business partner Doug Justus redeveloped Admiral’s Corner, the retail complex that houses 35 North, its first tenant.
The partners acquired the property in November 2018 and knew they wanted to create a place where they could take their own kids after a ballgame, said Cortez, who moved to Knoxville in 2008 and works at Discovery.
“This feels like something you would find in a big city,” Justus said. “There’s a surprise when people come out to see the space.”
35 North has 7,000 square feet of indoor space and an additional 2,000-square-foot courtyard with outdoor seating.
The indoor portion of 35 North comprises three areas: a rotunda with a bar, a middle portion with restaurant booths and table seating, and a third room with a large garage door connecting to the courtyard.
Three food trucks can fit into the bays where customers order their food, which is delivered to their tables by the wait staff. Food trucks serving at dinner were Penne for Your Thoughts and Big O’s Famous BBQ. Set up inside in a food booth was Blackie Chan’s Sushi, owned by sushi chef Christopher Richard, who has plans for a food truck by February.
The bar offers a variety of craft beers from popular local breweries like Orange Hat and Schulz Brau among national brands like Wicked Weed or Sierra Nevada. 35 North also boasts a large selection of whiskeys, bourbons, and liquors.
Parking is behind the building, and guests also can park at the medical clinic lot next door.
Farragut Planning Commission discussed the redevelopment of the old Phillips 66, located at the corner of N. Campbell Station Road, in summer 2019.
It’s part of Farragut Town Center, which has seen improvements in recent years with the addition of a Starbucks and the completion of Mayor Ralph McGill Plaza park, located across the street from 35 North.
Farragut does not allow food trucks in public areas, except for during special events.
35 North will be open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Hours will be extended to midnight Fridays and Saturdays when COVID-19 curfews are lifted.
Keep up with the business on Facebook by searching 35 North-Farragut.
Among the diners were Greg and Song Alford. Greg, who is originally from Farragut, moved back this June with his wife, Song, after 25 years in Scottsdale, Arizona.
“It’s a nice bar,” said Greg, “with different drinks to choose from and your choice of food. The atmosphere is great.”
“There are a lot of places like this in Scottsdale,” said Song. “We needed a place like this (in Farragut).”
Priorities change from one year to the next
Leslie Snow, Shopper News
I remember spending a lot of time thinking about my hair. I wanted to try a shorter cut, but I didn’t want to give up my ponytail. It seemed very important at the time. I spent a couple weeks doing internet searches for “updated bobs” and “best cuts for women over 50.” In the end, I just let it grow.
And then there was the rug for my kitchen. That was a big worry a year ago. I wanted to find a washable rug because the kitchen gets so much foot traffic, but I needed something that would blend in with my eclectic furniture, too. It was stressful trying to find just the right thing.
I thought about my pores, too. I saw some commercial about a skin cream that promised to “reduce the size of aging pores.” It really got me thinking. Should I be exfoliating more? Does retinol really work? Is vitamin C the answer? So many questions. I tried a new skin care regimen, but I gave it up after a month or two. It just didn’t seem that important anymore.
For a while, I fixated on filling a set of picture frames and hanging them on the wall going up the staircase. Should the photos be black and white or color? Should I take new pictures or mix in some old ones too? Those seemed like big decisions, back then, but they weren’t the only ones.
I stressed about the sprinkler system in the front beds, the mess in my closet, the paint color in the guest bedroom and the stain for our back deck.
I wanted a new sectional for the basement, a stone heron for the patio, a float pad to use in the lake, and some new towels for the bathrooms. I even spent a week looking for a new chair in my office, something with wheels that swiveled so I could move around more easily.
In 2019, if you had asked me about any of those things, I would have told you why they were important. I could have recounted a dozen reasons why my pores needed shrinking, my ponytail was vital, and my rug was life-changing.
Then my sister got sick and never recovered. The coronavirus became the lead news story, and like most of us, I retreated to my home to ride out the storm. So many things changed in such a short period of time. And all the things I thought were so important a year ago seem trivial now.
I don’t spend any time thinking about my hair these days. I seldom wear makeup and I don’t give my pores a single thought. I have a rug I can throw into the wash, but it hasn’t changed my life at all. Old towels work just as well as new ones, and the guest bedroom paint looks just fine.
But I wonder what comes next. I wonder where I’ll be when the coronavirus vaccine is commonplace and I can go back to my normal life. Will I wear makeup again? Will I spend time worrying about my sprinkler? Will I do internet searches to find the perfect stain color? I’m not so sure. I don’t know which changes are permanent and which ones are fleeting.
I have a perspective now that I didn’t have in 2019. My priorities have changed. And while I’m glad to have said goodbye to 2020, I hope I can stay focused on the things that matter most in 2021.
Leslie Snow may be reached at snow [email protected]
This article originally appeared on Knoxville News Sentinel: Shopper News blog: Chef John Alunni cooks to benefit Second Harvest