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Best Cellars and Best Sellers Raise Top Dollars at T.J. Martell Foundation Dinner

Posted in News on March 18, 2002

Nashville music’s best sellers joined renowned Chef Norman Van Aken of ‘Norman’s of Coral Gables’ and wine connoisseurs from the best cellars in Nashville for the Third Annual Nashville Best Cellars Dinner at Loews Vanderbilt Hotel on March 11.


keith urban, Phil Vassar, Martina McBride, Creative Artists Agency's John Huie, Faith Hill Creative Artists Agency's Rod Essig

The star-studded, black tie event was presented by the T.J. Martell Foundation and raised more than $145,000 for innovative research into the treatments and cures of leukemia, cancer and AIDS. The Foundation funds cancer research at the Frances Williams Preston Laboratories at the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center, the only comprehensive cancer center in Tennessee recognized by the National Cancer Institute.


Marlyce & Paul Corbin of BMI with Marion Williams

Over 140 people attended, including country artists, sports celebrities and prominent music industry executives. Celebrity guests included Faith Hill, Charlie Daniels, Joe Diffie, Gary Chapman, Kix Brooks & Ronnie Dunn, Kathy Mattea, Martina McBride, Alabama's Randy Owen, Blake Shelton, keith urban, Lee Ann Womack, BlackHawk’s Henry Paul, Chely Wright, Tracy Lawrence, Louise Mandrell, Steve Cropper, and NFL defensive tackle Jason Fisk.


Martell Foundation's Tod Minnich, EMI Christian Music Group's Bill Hearn, Charlie Daniels, Martina & John McBride, Randy Owen and Chef Norman Van Aken

The dinner party paired a recording artist with a wine connoisseur to co-host each table. The exotic feast was prepared by guest Chef Norman Van Aken with the assistance of Loews Vanderbilt Hotel’s Executive Chef Elaine Taubin, students from the Tennessee Tech culinary school, Cathy Lewis of Nick of Thyme, Thayer Wine, The Tennessean’s food and wine columnist, and Chef Jason McConnell from F. Scotts.


Theresa & Joe Diffie with Martina & John McBride

Exclusive wines were provided by table hosts Brett and Donna Allen, Tom Black, Greg and Collie Daily, Billy Ray and Joanie Hearn, Irving and Barbara Lingo, Paul and Carla McCombs, Tony and Terry Moorby, David and Anne Morgan, Bill and Rosann Nunnely, Keith and Deborah Pitts, Michael and Janet Richardson, Tim and Mary Schoettle, Ron and Becky Sohr, and David and Phyllis Vandewater.


Pam and Tim DuBois of Universal South, keith urban, Phil Vassar and Julie Wood

Norman’s of Coral Gables is located in Miami, Florida, and was not to be overlooked at this party. The hotel ballroom was transformed to set the mood of a Miami room at sunset. Gary Musick Scenic adorned the room in coral colors and palm trees that were enhanced by a waterfall that served as a backdrop to one of the stages. Tropical floral arrangements from Garden Delights added to the ambiance. On the other stage, the Floridian flair was accentuated by salsa music from Al DeLory & Music Makers.

As one of the originators of fusion cuisine, Chef Norman Van Aken is self-taught and has influenced an entire generation of innovative chefs. His ingredients are the foodstuffs of Southern Florida and the Caribbean: conch, shrimp, grouper and red snapper; black beans, mangoes, coconuts, and keylimes. These ingredients, along with the folk-cooking methods intrinsic to the area, have been melded by Van Aken with classical cooking techniques and traditional elements such has pork loin, foie gras, truffles and lobster. He calls the result New World Cuisine.

As a chef, restaurateur, and author of three cookbooks, Van Aken is one of the most prolific and influential masters of cooking in America today. His restaurant has been recognized by virtually every culinary guide and authority, from the Mobile Travel Guide and Zagat’s to The James Beard Foundation, Gourmet, Conde’ Nast Traveler and Wine Spectator. Chef Van Aken has also been honored with the Robert Mondavi Culinary Award of Excellence and the Food Arts Silver Spoon Award for Lifetime Achievement.

Highlights from the seven-course menu were the Yuca Stuffed Shrimp with Pickled Habanero Tarter Salsa; Spiced Roasted Pork Tenderloin with Golden Grits, Red Mole, Smoky Plantain Crema and a Spanish Sherry Reduction; Vietnamese Soft Spring Rolls with Tuna Petals, Paw-Paw Slaw and Crushed Peanut-Soy Salsa; Cornbread and Foie Gras Stuffed Roasted Quail with Ancho-Pomegranate Glaze; and New World Banana Split with Macadamia Nut Brittle Ice Cream, Venezuelan Chocolate Sauce and Rhum-Flamed Bananas.

To date the T.J. Martell Foundation has raised over $160 million and funds nine research facilities throughout the U.S. for cutting edge research into the cures and treatment of cancer, leukemia and AIDS. The Martell Foundation was founded in 1975 by music industry executive Tony Martell and his colleagues in memory of his son, T.J., a victim of leukemia, and is nationally recognized for support of research facilities at Mt. Sinai Medical Center in New York, Childrens Hospital in Los Angeles, and the Mayo Clinic in Rochester.