Foodie Meets Family

Cincinnati chefs prepare family-friendly dishes for the de Cavel Family SIDS Foundation brunch

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click to enlarge Chefs from the 2013 Friends and Family Brunch
Chefs from the 2013 Friends and Family Brunch

The words “kid-friendly” and “foodie” are seldom spoken in the same breath. That is, unless you are speaking with Jean-Robert and Annette de Cavel, founders of the de Cavel Family SIDS Foundation and hosts of the foundation’s annual Friends and Family Brunch at the Midwest Culinary Institute. 


SIDS, or Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, is a “quiet” issue; its presence in the charity world is relatively minimal. So when Jean-Robert and Annette lost their first daughter, Tatiana, to SIDS in 2002, their friends and fellow restaurateurs gathered to encourage them to bring attention to the issue and the many families it affects. Sunday’s charity brunch embraces family and truly welcomes children by bringing together Cincinnati chefs to take foodie favorites and make them appealing to the younger set. Local chefs jump at the chance to participate in the three-hour event, both to contribute to the foundation’s efforts and to represent their restaurants. Adult tickets for the brunch are $65, with discounted $20 tickets for children ages 5-12 and free for children younger than 5.

Over the past 11 years, the foundation has raised more than $750,000; the funds contribute to research at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, educational programs on safe sleep through Cribs for Kids and Cradle Cincinnati, and a scholarship fund for the Midwest Culinary Institute in Tatiana de Cavel’s name. Sunday’s event marks the foundation’s main fundraising effort of the year, complete with a silent auction, activity booths from the Cincinnati Museum Center and, of course, Cincinnati’s best culinary talent.

Each year, the Friends and Family Brunch promises a family-oriented, collaborative spirit. “This is not about competition,” Jean-Robert says.

When the chefs gather at the Midwest Culinary Institute Sunday, attendees can expect an atmosphere characterized by a sense of community. Each chef will create their brunch dish with no specific direction from the de Cavels. Though Jean-Robert has yet to plan his restaurants’ contributions (both French Crust Café and Table will be there), he does know that most of the items served will feature a combination of sweet and savory, something that many children appreciate. By allowing the participating chefs to craft a dish that fully represents their respective restaurants, the de Cavels can provide attendees with a wide variety of dishes that anyone, foodie or 5-year-old, will enjoy. 

“(The kids) may not eat everything on the plate,” Annette says, “but they will at least try the different parts (of the dish) and enjoy them separately.”

Many of the chefs involved in the event are parents themselves and feel a close connection to the cause. Executive chef Jackson Rouse from the Rookwood in Mount Adams has a 3-year-old daughter and another baby on the way. Over the past 20 years, Rouse has worked in just about every culinary setting imaginable, from his family’s grocery store to an upscale barbecue joint to a stint in professional brewing at Northern Kentucky’s Oldenburg Brewing Company. This is Rouse’s first year as a contributor, and he is excited to be part of a cause significant to him and his wife, who happens to be a nurse. Kid-friendly food is also one of his favorite challenges, both as a father and as a chef.

“When kids come in (to The Rookwood) with their parents, I treat them as my future customers,” he says. One of his favorite things about the SIDS Foundation brunch is that it allows him to draw inspiration from his biggest fan: his daughter.

During a recent trip to Jungle Jim’s, Rouse’s daughter tossed a bag of “o”-shaped Rustichella pasta into the cart. Inspired by her selection, Rouse decided to combine a few of her favorite things — sweet peas, bacon (housemade at The Rookwood), robiola cheese and a fried egg — to create what he calls “carbonara-o’s.” This playful dish will be served in bowls to the hungry attendees during the brunch.

“If you’re going to make kid-friendly food, make the very best version of it,” Rouse says.

Rouse will appear alongside some of the city’s most talented chefs, including Stephen Williams of Bouquet Restaurant and Wine Bar, Jose Salazar of Salazar, Todd Kelly and Megan Ketover of Orchids, David Falk of Boca and many others. Apart from their mutual passion for food and hospitality, all of the participants have one very important thing in common: They understand the importance of children and family.

Having suffered a tremendous loss, Annette and Jean-Robert find comfort in bringing families together on a Sunday afternoon. Year after year, the couple is approached by those who have faced SIDS firsthand; that sense of community and empathy grows with each event, something the de Cavels appreciate greatly. 

The annual brunch also allows the pair to watch their 10-year-old daughter, Laeticia, relish every second of the event. “She’s very social,” Jean-Robert says. “She understands the reason (for the event), but mostly just enjoys herself.” 

It is that kind of genuine enjoyment that Jean-Robert and Annette hope to see in full swing this Sunday.


THE DE CAVEL FAMILY SIDS FOUNDATION ANNUAL FRIENDS AND FAMILY BRUNCH takes place 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Sunday at the Midwest Culinary Institute at Cincinnati State (3520 Central Parkway, Clifton). More information: eatplaygive.net.

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