Chef For A Night

Dream job wows the crowd at cafe fund-raiser

Chef For A Night

Ruth Hartunion Alumbaugh


While dining with her husband at a cafe in their home state of Connecticut, Ruth Hartunion, Alumbaugh saw a poster that whet her appetite.

"Want to be the guest chef of the month?" the sign asked. A lifelong cooking enthusiast and a Taste of Home field editor, Ruth answered "Yes!" with excitement.

The Willimantic Brewing Co. cafe's promotion offered locals the chance to plan and prepare a menu for an evening with a portion of the proceeds going to charity.

Clad in a white chef's coat on the big night, Ruth created an appetizer and three entrees with help from the restaurant's staff. Ruth had spread the word around town about her celebrity gig, so the restaurant was packed. In fact, people were turned away. The menu sold out.

Her Lamb Kabobs with Bulgur Pilaf, which reflect her Armenian heritage, were the biggest hit. They were completely gone in the first two hours.

Ruth also treated diners to 100 "thank-you" cupcakes.

The restaurant was so impressed with the turnout that Ruth received 10 percent of the night's profits—$1,300. The staff of her designated charity, the Willimantic Public Library children's department, was astounded with her gift, Ruth says. "We spend a lot of time there, so it's nice that they now know how much we appreciate them."

And for Ruth the cook, working in a restaurant kitchen was a dream come true.

"So much counter space, and I didn't have to wash a single dish," she says. "The dishwashers were my heroes!"

For those at the cafe, Ruth's Lamb Kabobs with Bulgur Pilaf were the hero of the night.