A spring dinner held recently at Splinter Creek featured celebrity chefs Kevin Gillespie, a Top Chef contestant and owner of restaurant Gunshow in Atlanta, and Ryan Prewitt of Pêche Seafood Grill in New Orleans. The dinner, a fundraiser for the Move on Up Mississippi Foundation, was organized by Oxford, Mississippi's own chef John Currence, owner of the City Grocery group of restaurants.
The April 8 event welcomed 16 dinner guests to Splinter Creek for a meal prepared entirely outdoors by Gillespie and Prewitt. The dinner was served on the screened porch at the Splinter Creek Boathouse residence, designed by renown architecture firm Lake Flato. Guests dined overlooking one of the three pristine spring-fed Splinter Creek lakes as the sun set.
Sunny cocktails greeted guests upon their arrival. Named University Grays Punch, the drink recipe is from Currence's first cookbook, Pickles, Pigs & Whiskey and features Old Grand-Dad bourbon, Appleton Estate V/X rum, Hennessy VSOP cognac, Champagne, lemon juice, and Lemon-Thyme shrub. The University Grays were the Confederate infantry division from Oxford, made up of almost all Ole Miss students.
Chef Ryan Prewitt checks the Kudu Grills set up on site especially for the al fresco dinner prep and meal.
Chef Kevin Gillespie begins prep for his gnocchi Parisienne dish with red cooked pork, basil and green onion.
Dinner guests Sonya Bjork and Ole Miss Athletics Director Ross Bjork take in a view of one of the Splinter Creek lakes during the cocktail hour.
Prewitt plates one of the dishes for the five-course meal.
Ready for the grill: perfectly prepared seafood dishes, which included gulf fish on the half shell with crab and chili butter; tuna crudo with green goddess dressing and crispy garlic; and softly cooked wild salmon over creamed green peas with cucumber sauce vierge.
Diners enjoy a candlelit meal on Splinter Creek's north lake. The meal was for a good cause, benefiting the Move on Up foundation, which targets childhood hunger and nutrition in Mississippi. Chef John Currence founded the organization in 2015. This is the second year Currence organized the event.
“It’s time to take the fact that Mississippi shows up at the bottom of every annual list published and do something about it,” Currence says. “It is no laughing matter we continue to bring up the rear. We can make change if we put our minds to it.”
Photos by Oxford, Mississippi-based photographer Erin Austen Abbott. Abbott also owns Oxford's Amelia shop, contributes to Design*Sponge and recently released her new book How To Make It. Find her and more of her Splinter Creek photos on Instagram @ameliapresents.