Chefs Begin Visiting the Bull Run Warrior Retreat

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A special thanks to Chefs Elena M. Clement, CEPC®, AAC®, owner of The Guiding Knife, CW4 (Ret.) Michael L. Wisler also of The Guiding Knife, and military chefs CSC(SW) Matthew P. Susienka, CEC®, Chef to the 38th Vice Chief of Naval Operations, and CS1 Ian Brown, Chef to the Superintendent of the United States Naval Academy for being the first chefs to visit the Bull Run Warrior Retreat as part of the Visiting Chef Program.

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The chefs not only created a great menu they also offered instruction to 3 of the wounded warrior’s family members who asked to help make dinner. The chefs prepared an awesome meal from scratch in our new kitchen with the help of the family honorary sous chefs.

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Chef Elena had everything running smoothly.

Chef Matt is being transferred to Naval Station Great Lakes near Chicago in December. We are so happy he could come to the retreat and prepare a special meal for a wounded warrior and her family before he left. Matt will always be a member of the Serve Our Willing Warriors family and a visiting chef. We can’t wait to have him back some day soon.

Big Green Eggs at the Bull Run Warrior Retreat

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Exciting news at the Bull Run Warrior Retreat this week as we received a donation of 2 medium sized Big Green Eggs. Dizzy Pig BBQ put us in contact with Seasonal Firestyles of Waldorf, MD who donated the eggs to the Visiting Chef Program. I know chefs will love grilling and smoking with the Big Green Eggs. Thanks to Tim Jarek at Seasonal Firestyles and Chris and Joellen at Dizzy Pig for making it happen.

The Bull Warrior Retreat

Bull Run Warrior Retreat
16013 Waterfall Rd.
Haymarket, VA 20169
www.willingwarriors.org

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Several years ago Serve Our Willing Warriors (SOWW) was created to fulfill the vision of its founders John and Shirley Dominick. After years of outreach to wounded warriors at Walter Reed and Ft. Belvoir Community Hospital they decided a more permanent place for wounded warriors and their families to come and relax away from the hospital and rehab environments was needed. A few years ago SOWW acquired and began remodeling an 11,000 sq. ft. 5 bedroom home on 37 acres at the foot of Bull Run Mountain in Haymarket, VA. Through the hard work and dedication of volunteers and the generous heart of a wonderful community the project is near completion. Soon we will invite wounded warriors and their families to stay at the retreat.

I am proud to play a small role at the retreat as the lead on the Visiting Chef Program. I created the Visiting Chef Program as a way to make the stay special for these deserving families. We have nearly 40 restaurant, catering, personal, and military chefs from our area who have agreed to participate in the program. A chef will come to the retreat once during the family’s stay and prepare them an exceptional meal. We have several local food vendors involved with the program and are creating a large chef’s garden.

On July 4th we were joined by over 500 volunteers, donors, and friends for the Bull Run Warrior Retreat ribbon cutting ceremony. Everyone had a great time and was excited to see the house and know that it is nearly finished. I have put together some pictures to show how far we have come and how warm and inviting it will be for the families. Remember that almost everything you see in the photos has been donated, from the building materials and labor to the cabinets, appliances, and furniture.

We still need help outfitting the retreat and making sure the families have everything needed for their stay. To help the community make donations we have a Bed Bath & Beyond Registry to identify kitchen and home items we still need.

Full House Exterior

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Wheelchair access to the house is by ramp to the front door or there is a chair lift in the garage for inclement weather.

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From the front deck you can see the service flags and the children’s play area. Both were part of the many Eagle Scout projects on property.

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Girl Scouts created this beautiful serenity garden.

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Also near the front of the house is this BBQ area built as an Eagle Scout project.

Front Deck

The front deck.

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The main entrance to the house.

Kitchen July 2014

The kitchen about a year ago.

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The kitchen today has a 48 inch 6 burner gas stove with 2 electric ovens, 2 French door refrigerators, 2 dishwashers, a wall oven, wine cooler, microwave, and 2 sinks. The kitchen appliances are all GE Monogram and part of a package of 17 appliances donated by builder K. Hovnanian Homes. The cabinets were donated by Signature Woodcrafters in Haymarket.

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The main dining room.

Rear Living Room

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The rear living room.

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The front living room.

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2nd bedroom

Roll in Shower

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The main floor has 3 large bedrooms with wheelchair accessible bathrooms and showers.

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The upper floor, accessible by elevator, has 2 bedrooms with standard baths for family and children. At the top of the stairs is this comfortable seating area overlooking Bull Run Mountain.

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At the base of the stairs on the lower level is the library and memorabilia area.

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Directly behind the library is the children’s play area.

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The entertainment room will feature a pool table and large screen TV.

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The exercise room is also on the lower level and has a full bath with roll in shower.

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Just off the exercise area is a room with massage tables.

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The caretaker’s quarters includes a kitchen/living room area, bedroom and office.

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The caretaker’s quarters has it’s own small deck. We enclosed the back garage to make it the volunteer office and conference room.

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The rear deck is accessible from the dinning room and through French doors in the main entryway hall to allow for wheelchair access.

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Leading out from the children’s play area on the lower level is the patio with a burn pit.

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The chef’s garden was an Eagle Scout project that will help us take a farm-to-table approach to food at the retreat. Not only for the chefs but we will encourage the families to draw from the garden as they prepare their own meals.

Dizzy Fest 2015

Great news, tickets are still available for the best BBQ festival in Northern Virginia on June 6th in Manassas. Hosted by the wonderful folks at Dizzy Pig, this is your chance to experience great food prepared by championship barbeque teams from all over. There is a wide selection of BBQ to sample and no one goes home hungry. Purchase your tickets here.

Ribs

Pork and beef ribs are very popular.

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The food is prepared using Big Green Eggs. Chicken is another fan favorite.

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Last year we scored some amazing Veal meatballs mixed with Cheese and Jalapenos from Dave Semovoski.

If you have never seen a Big Green Egg this is a great way to spend the afternoon and learn what amazing food these teams can create with them . Get your tickets soon, they always sell out.

My First 100% Biodegradable Wedding

My wife and I were invited to an amazing event last weekend as part of nearly 100 friends and family who watched Christina and Devin tie the knot. The light rain on our drive to Madison, VA broke on queue just before the beautiful ceremony. My blog title may seem a little farfetched but this truly was a one-of-a-kind experience. Everything was hand-crafted, created, or repurposed right down to the officiant who was Christina’s 3rd grade teacher and now a vice principal at a local high school. The best part is it wasn’t a gimmick. It’s how Christina and Devin live their lives, a huge impact on those who love them and minimal impact on their environment.

Sure the band used some electricity and there were twinkly lights strung around the tents so no one would hang themselves on guide wires. Other than that everything could be repurposed or recycled.

Attendees sat on hay bales covered with linens the bride’s mother handmade.

All the plates, napkins, utensils, and cups were 100% biodegradable. Tablecloths were made of book pages and old topographical maps.

Guests were asked to bring a covered dish and the response was wonderful. We dropped off our dish in the kitchen when we arrived and everything was arranged with no worries. When it was time to leave we stopped by the kitchen and found our dish washed and ready. Luckily Christina and Devin have many friends and family who are wonderful cooks and foodies.

Round One! Each table had fresh cut flowers from friends and family gardens and the table runners were made by Christina’s mother Bonny from Goodwill linens.

Just to be clear this wasn’t some vegetarians only get together.

 

Christina made this wonderful lemon wedding cake.

Having any event with near zero environmental impact is hard work and not for everyone. It’s the reason weddings are a 40 billion dollar a year industry. Its easier for most people to just buy stuff. We’re blessed to have friends not like everyone and who worked so hard to make this a special day for Christina and Devin and all who joined them.

Chef Chris Edwards Joins Forces With Serve Our Willing Warriors

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I am very excited to announce that Chef Chris Edwards, Chef de Cuisine at Salamander Resort & Spa in Middleburg, VA has volunteered to be the Honorary Head Chef for the Bull Run Warrior Retreat’s Visiting Chef Program. A graduate of culinary arts from Johnson and Wales in Charleston, SC, Chef Edwards trained in Spain at El Bulli and El Raco de Can Fabes, both three Michelin Star restaurants. He has worked at such notable restaurants as Maestro in Tysons Corner and Fiamma in New York. Before taking the helm at Salamander Resort he was Chef at the highly acclaimed Restaurant at Patowmack Farm.

We look forward to working with Chef Edwards and all our visiting chefs as we welcome our recovering warriors and their families to the Bull Run Warrior Retreat and work to make their stay memorable.