The Omni San Antonio at the Colonnade is hosting wounded warriors this Thanksgiving.
It’s easy to give thanks on Thanksgiving for the many blessings we have received over the course of a year that we can see and feel. It’s a little harder to remember to be grateful for all of the sacrifices others have made on our behalf. But the folks at the Omni San Antonio at the Colonnade, 9821 Colonnade Blvd., are offering us one such chance.
The hotel working with the organization Wounded Warriors on a Thanksgiving dinner program that will benefit soldiers who are being treated in the area. For each meal that is donated, the hotel will match it, so the soldiers can bring someone along to break bread with them.
The cost of a meal is $39.95 plus tax and a 21-percent service charge, the same as it is for any adult attending the popular buffet, which will be in the hotel’s ballroom from 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Word has only now gotten out about the offer, but in just a couple of days, 25 sponsorships had been pledged, and the hotel was hoping the final list would top 100, general manager Delfin Ortiz said.
How do you sponsor someone?
When people call to place their reservations for Thanksgiving dinner, they are asked if they want to sponsor a wounded warrior. The cost will then be added to their bill. A few people who are planning on having their turkey dinners at home have called to sponsor soldiers, Ortiz said.
“There’s been such an incredible response from our community,” he said. “This is what Thanksgiving is all about.”
If everything works out, the plan is to make the sponsorships a tradition at both Thanksgiving and Christmas.
If you want to sponsor a wounded warrior, call (210) 699-5803.
William “Goro” Pitchford (standing) talks to Sgt Affiong Udoiwod, Sgt. Gus Lucatero and the others in a group from BAMC who visited Godai Sushi Bar.
Specialist Jeremy Page was stationed in Germany when he had a seizure that he couldn’t control. It landed him in SA’s Brooke Army Medical Center a few months ago. He expects his treatments to last another year, which can put a strain on his family life and his plans for becoming a chef.
So, it was a treat for him to get to go out with about 20 others from BAMC to Godai Sushi Bar, 11203 West Ave., on Monday for a family-style dinner that the owner, William “Goro” Pitchford, had prepared in their honor.
The wounded military men and women as well as few family members were treated to miso soup and salad, a series of sushi rolls, fried rice, spicy chicken bulgogi, chilled sake and more before Goro presented them with a tray of eight whole snappers that had been fried and artfully arranged on a large platter.
This was the first time that Godai hosted the group, but it won’t be the last. The restaurant will be hosting a new group from BAMC every quarter.
Why host the dinner? “I want to give back, to give them something for all they’ve given us,” Goro said. “I just feel it’s my responsibility as an American.”
Sgt. Ralph Flores (right) and Specialist Jeremy Page (right) enjoy dinner at Godai.
The meal was organized by James Salaiz, a real estate consultant who volunteers his time to make sure people recuperating at BAMC get out of the hospital for a meal on a regular basis. In addition to Godai, a few of the restaurants who have donated meals include the Lion and Rose, Urban Taco, Los Barrios, Ruby Tuesday and Paesanos. Most of them offer a meal on a quarterly basis, while Magnolia Pancake Haus offers breakfast every month.
Many of the regular diners at Godai stopped by the table to express their thanks for all that the men and women had done for our country.
The trip to Godai, an evening away from the hospital and a chance to enjoy some talk and good times, was a nice change of pace for Dennis and Pam Krumwiede, who are visiting from Pocatello, Idaho, because they wanted to be here for their son, Matthew, who had stepped on a landmine.
“We’re here to help him heal,” Dennis Krumwiede said, adding that it could be a year or two.
Specialist Jeremy Page enjoys seconds of the fried snapper.
While some in the group were familiar with Japanese cuisine, a few had never tasted it before.
“I’ve never had it before,” said Sgt. Ralph Flores, who’s originally from Robstown. “It’s all new to me.”
Goro’s special deep-fried Oreos, which he served up on a large platter were new to everyone, and the dessert soon disappeared.
Restaurateurs, if any of you would like to host a group of wounded warriors, contact James Salaiz at (210) 831-3635.
Joan Cheever prepares roasted carrots in the Chow Train.
Joan Cheever has learned that in the past year. The founder of the Chow Train food truck has relied on many to help her in her mission to feed San Antonio’s homeless and hungry.
The chef, who is also a student at St. Philip’s Culinary School, needed a corps of volunteers from Broadway Bank Sunday as she made food for more than 150 military men and women who were part of the crews building a home for a Wounded Warrior as part of the TV program, “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.” The Floresville home for the Shiloh Harris family was co-sponsored by Morgan’s Wonderland, through the efforts of Gordon Hartman.
Hartman’s involvement was what got Cheever out to the site twice recently. The first was on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the second was this past Sunday, as the crews finished work on the house.
Cheever planned an elaborate dinner for these volunteers, a plate laden with a garden salad with cherry tomatoes and roasted corn, Coca-Cola braised brisket, roasted brussels sprouts with bacon, roasted carrots with parsley and mashed potatoes. Pan dulces donated by Don Strange Catering crowned each plate.
To get each plate to a worker in quick time required about a dozen workers adding the food in an assembly line that had the workers getting hungrier with each addition.
Volunteers from Broadway Bank help set up the serving table.
Cheever gets the same response most every day from the people she feeds. Part of it is because she caters to the needs of the people she feeds. She makes sure that those with diabetes have low-carbohydrate dishes and those who are vegetarian are given meat-free dishes. She even feeds someone she calls “Vegan John,” who always asks if the food on his plate is made without meat or dairy products.
You might expect such treatment if you were paying for your meals, but most of these people are either homeless or unable to pay for a meal.
“I’m not going to let anybody go hungry,” Cheever said.
“She’s like a woman for all diets,” said Chris Plauché, who works with Cheever regularly at the Catholic-sponsored soup kitchen downtown and is in awe of her dedication.
“You do what you can,” Cheever said, adding that she’s learned a great deal from dealing with people with special needs that extend beyond normal kitchen concerns, such as the dental condition of many of the homeless creates an added challenge.
Dennis Quinn helps wife Joan Cheever prepare the meal.
“When you’re doing a garnish, you need to be thoughtful about it,” she said.
Cheever also wants to make sure her meals are well-balanced and nutritious as possible, which means that though her food truck came equipped with a deep-fryer, she has yet to use it.
She does use items like bacon to help make some taste foods as foreign as brussels sprouts, soups or salads more appealing. “They know by now that if they don’t eat the appetizer, whether it’s a soup or a salad, Chef won’t give you the main course,” she said. “But I tell them, ‘Try it. You don’t know it, but you’ll really like it.’”
Her non-profit mission, which was registered as a 501(c)3 last summer, has grown because of the contributions of area farmers, who donate what they don’t sell at the end of their market day at Olmos Basin. She’s also been getting donations from Broadway Daily Bread. Kiolbassa donated sausage for the “Extreme Makeover” meals, and Saweet Cupcakes offered dessert for the first meal the chef provided.
Cheever juggles her truck duties with her classes at St. Philip’s, which should conclude in May.
This isn’t Cheever’s first career. In a former life, she was a New York attorney and a journalist. She’s also the author of the book, “Back from the Dead: One Woman’s Search for the Men Who Walked off America’s Death Row,” which is used as part of the curriculum at Incarnate Word.
The volunteer builders line up for a Chow Train meal.
Cheever’s family drew her and her husband, Dennis Quinn, to San Antonio, and she decided a couple of years ago to pursue a culinary degree. Out of that, the Chow Train was born. “I love to cook — and I just wanted to be a part of something,” she said.
Her truck doesn’t feed only local people. She took the truck to Joplin, Mo., last year right after the tornadoes, so she could feed the workers who were helping with the cleanup efforts there.
Cheever also plans on going across the country on what she calls a Hungry America tour, in which she would visit the most poverty-riddled areas of the country. “We would do a fabulous meal for people with local ingredients,” in order to bring them some information about nutrition and eating better, she said. She’s hoping to have other trucks offering medical screenings and advice where needed.
But she has to learn how to drive a pickup first — and a pickup with a food truck hitched to it. Until then, her husband has been helping out, both behind the wheel and in the mobile kitchen.
The finished house for Wounded Warrior Shiloh Harris.
In the meantime, she’ll continue feeding the people who show up wherever the Chow Train kitchen rolls to next.
As Cheever said, “What does the Bible say? The poor will be with you always, so we need to do something.”