Skip to main content

Unpretentious Palate


Suggested content for you

share on facebook Tweet This! Email

Editor's Note: This story is unlocked for everyone to read courtesy of the CRVA, our partner in nourishing culinary exploration for residents and visitors of the Queen City.

April 25, 2024

Chefs team up to Fork Cancer

Gala dinner to benefit four area nonprofits

by TM Petaccia

This year’s Fork Cancer dinner will be September 7 at NorthStone Country Club. Photo by Amanda Loren

In 2008, Forever Oceans chef Mark Allison’s wife Alison was diagnosed with stage-four non-treatable Carcinoid Syndrome with a prognosis of three years. Her brave fight lasted eight years, ending on March 19, 2015 at the age of 50.

Mark picked up the gauntlet and continued the fight with Fork Cancer, an annual dinner to benefit four local nonprofits. Celebrating its third year, this year’s event will be September 7 at Huntersville’s NorthStone Country Club.

Fork Cancer founder Mark Allison. Photo courtesy

“About three years ago, when her anniversary came around, I was thinking, ‘What could I do to celebrate her life?'” Allison says. “She was so positive in everything she did. I also wanted to raise money for those who were fighting cancer at the moment. That was how Fork Cancer was born. It’s a celebration of life.”

Proceeds from Fork Cancer will benefit Teal Diva, a gynecological cancer support network; Xander’s Acts of Kindness Foundation, supporting the lives of young cancer patients from underprivileged families; NothingPink, creating awareness of hereditary breast and gynecological cancer and providing personalized support to individuals at high risk; and The Meggs Foundation, providing resources for young adults with cancer.

During its first two years, the event raised over $150,000. “I didn’t want to have any big charities because I wanted to actually make a difference to people who need money to pay the rent or the mortgage or put food on the table or even to get childcare when they go for treatment,” Allison says.

A joint venture with Forever Oceans and Charlotte’s Food & Beverage Social Club, this year’s Fork Cancer dinner will be prepared by seven area chefs: Andres Prüssing, Charlotte Marriott Center City — hors-d’oeuvres; Sam Diminich, Restaurant Constance / Your Farms Your Table — appetizer; Mason Martinez, Swanson-Girard Culinary Solutions — first entrée; Jon and Amy Fortes, Flipside Restaurant / The Flipside Cafe — second entrée; and Samantha Ward, Wentworth & Fenn — dessert.

Samantha Ward, Wentworth & Fenn, at Fork Cancer 2023. Photo: Amanda Loren

“Fork Cancer definitely holds a close place in my heart,” says Wentworth & Fenn’s Samantha Ward. “I’ve lost family members and friends to cancer. I look at this charity as a way to give back to those who have lost the battle. Hopefully, some of the funds raised will save those currently fighting.”

The dinner will also offer vegetarian options created by Raffaele Patrizi of Mano Bella Artisan Foods. “Mano Bella identifies itself as a company that works hand-in-hand with its community,” Patrizi says. “We don’t just source our ingredients from local farms, but we send them flowers when they are sick or literally lend a hand out in the fields when times are tough. These meaningful connections are at the core of Mano Bella. We had the immense pleasure of having dinner with Chef Mark Allison after judging the preliminaries for the Got To Be NC Chef Showdown and witnessed firsthand his genuine love for his late wife and her strength and his passion for helping others. This is a no-brainer for us.”

In addition to Allison serving as the event’s menu organizer, Jay Ziobrowski (“Chef Jay Z”) of Morrison Healthcare will serve as chef and menu emcee, with Chris Aquilino of Elior North America serving as culinary and kitchen organizer. But that’s not all the support the evening’s chefs will get.

“Chefs just show up to help,” Allison says. “When I came up with the idea, I thought I’d reach out to one or two chefs, then we could do an outstanding meal. Every chef I asked wanted to be part of this. Last year, we had 15 chefs in the kitchen. One actually flew in from Texas. Of course, they are all welcome.”

The evening will also feature silent and live auctions. Full menu and tickets information can be found online.

“Cancer has had an incredible impact on my family and friends who are close to me,” says Restaurant Constance’s Sam Diminich. “Mark approached me a few years back about participating in this fundraiser, and after hearing his story, it was an easy yes. I will do this for as long as he will have me.”

Posted in: Latest Updates, News