In 2003, Tim Love and his wife, Emilie, had twin girls who were born prematurely. They’re healthy now, but Love says that the early experience was one that he doesn’t wish on anybody.
“Being in the NICU is pretty tough," Love says. "It's tough enough when you go home with a [healthy] baby. I remember when my son was born, my wife and I thought, 'where's the manual?' You go home from the hospital two days later and you have to learn everything. But it’s even harder when you can’t take your kid home.”
Since then, Love has dedicated a lot his charity time toward working with organizations that help infants and their parents. When he appeared on Top Chef Masters in 2009, he played in support of March of Dimes. But in 2010, he decided to create his own benefit, and Burgers 4 Babies came to be.
The annual event draws chefs from Fort Worth, Dallas and elsewhere, serving not just burgers but a variety of dishes. Last year’s event had a Hamptons theme, so there was a lot of seafood to go along with the burgers. This year’s event -- which takes place 6:30-10 p.m. Thursday, April 10 at Woodshed Smokehouse, Love’s large-patio restaurant by the Trinity River -- will have a Napa Valley theme, so expect lots of wine to go with the food.
It’s $175, but the money goes toward NICU Helping Hands, a Fort Worth organization that provides educational and emotional support for parents of “preemies.”
Lisa Grubbs, president of NICU Helping Hands, says that Love approached the charity with the idea for the event.
“I think premature babies affect parents in ways that most people who have full-term babies can’t imagine,” Grubbs says. “It’s hard to picture this special world in a hospital where these babies grow. Many of them are born as early as 24 weeks, which is barely halfway through a pregnancy. When they’re born that little, they can weigh about a pound. They can fit in your hand. They’re not ready to be here yet.”
NICU Helping Hands has several programs to provide assistance for parents, including pairing new parents of preemies with parents who have had experience with them. Grubbs says that Burgers 4 Babies has allowed the local nonprofit to expand its programs, including providing resources to parents who lose a baby.
Love says that he wants to emphasize the positive in the event, calling it a celebration of what NICU Helping Hands does. Grubbs says that he’s accomplished that.
“It’s a great time,” Grubbs says. “It’s the best food that you can get. It is a celebration, it is a party, but at the same time, it’s funding us so we can do work that needs to be done in our local community. And nationally -- we’re doing some things nationally as well.”
Participating chefs include Fort Worth’s Blaine Staniford ( Grace, Little Red Wasp), Jon Bonnell ( Bonnell’s Fine Texas Cuisine, Waters), David McMillan ( Bird Cafe), Donnatella Trotti ( Nonna Tata), Mark Daverio ( Fireside Pies Fort Worth), Michael Thomson ( Michael’s Cuisine Restaurant and Bar); Dallas’ Andrew Dilda ( Barter Uptown; also a Woodshed alum), Daniel Pittman ( LUCK) and Jon Tesar ( Spoon Bar and Kitchen); Austin’s Andrew Wisehart ( Contigo) and David Bull ( Congress); and Carey Bringle of Nashville’s Peg Leg Porker. Love himself will also participate.
Top Chef alumni Ilan Hall, Mike Isabella and Spike Mendelsohn were originally scheduled to appear, but had to withdraw because of scheduling conflicts.