Gail Phares was crowned the Queen of Hearts at the annual event by the same name that recognizes women who strongly support Pinellas charities with their time and money. Of the many causes Phares has worked with over the years, the Museum of Fine Arts' Stuart Society and the Boley Center are among the most important.
"The Boley Center is very dear to me because it takes care of people who are so in need,'' she said. "Mental illness and drug and alcohol abuse are things that people don't always recognize as a disease. These people really need support and help and the Boley Center gives them a place to live and the ability to find a job."
Phares was treasurer for the Stuart Society in 2014, she said, adding with a laugh: "I think I've been on every committee they've ever had." Working on the museum's Wine Weekend and Art in Bloom are highlights.
"I really like being able to fundraise and bring people into exhibitions to expose them to the museum's permanent collection. I have a great fondness for the staff there and the Stuart Society."
Phares' court included: Catherine DeHaan, Angeline Howell, Natalie DeVicente, Carol Bonanno, Gina Wilkins, and Rebecca Malowany.
Collard greens were the topic of conversation and celebration at the Historic Manhattan Casino where more than 150 people ate, sang, danced and showed support for the first Tampa Bay Collard Green Festival. Collards After Dark culminated a daylong festival featuring a collard green cook-off, urban gardening demonstrations, food trucks, a kids' play zone and more at the Carter G. Woodson African American Museum. Celebrity chef Edouardo Jordan, a St. Petersburg native, was a special guest. The festival, which drew more people than expected, was organized by Samantha Wilson and Boyzell Hosey, assistant managing editor of photography and multimedia for the Tampa Bay Times.
The idea for the festival was born when Hosey and his wife, Andrida Hosey, cooked an unusually good batch of collard greens in a pressure cooker.
"These are almost as good as my Aunt Pinky's," Wilson reportedly declared when she tasted them. The three thought it would be fun to bring a lot of people together to taste and talk about collards.
"We did some Googling and low and behold these collard green festivals started popping up," Boyzell Hosey said. They wondered if they could start one here but it seemed a long shot.
"We laughed a gut busting laugh like this was the most ridiculous idea adults could latch on to," Wilson, who works at PharmaLink, recounted when she took the stage briefly at Collards After Dark.
Still, after visiting festivals in Atlanta and elsewhere Wilson and Boyzell Hosey started a nonprofit entity for the Tampa Bay Collard Green Festival. They sought help pursuing grants, and brought in sponsors, partners and volunteers. Beyond enjoying good friends and good food, the festival, which will become an annual event, educates the community on healthy eating and alternative ways of cooking. Some collards, for example, were cooked with turkey or garlic instead of fat and bacon.
Jordan, who led cooking demonstrations, has earned a reputation as a stellar chef with restaurants in Seattle named Salare and JuneBaby. That latter is named for his dad. Jordan graduated from Boca Ciega High School and then the University of Florida with degrees in business and sports marketing. After an internship with the Tampa Bay Rays, he decided he wanted follow the love of cooking that started when he was a child and enrolled in Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Orlando. From there he worked in gourmet restaurants in New York, California and Washington state. He was one of five finalists for the James Beard award for best chef of the Northwest last year and was named a "best new chef" by Food & Wine magazine in 2016.
Katherine Snow Smith can be contacted at email@example.com.