In honor of her beloved alma mater, Spelman College in Atlanta, Ga., pediatric dentist Dr. Lezli Levene Harvell hosted a special iconic dinner in June at the James Beard Beard House in New York to raise money for the scholarship that also bears her name, the Dr. Lezli Levene Harvell Scholarship for International Students. The scholarship specifically benefits students attending Spelman from Jamaica and Sub-Sarahan African countries and is part of the philanthropic work Harvell does with her husband through their foundation, The Dental Kidz.
“Education is very important to my husband and me so our foundation, The Dental Kidz Foundation, does support initiatives in education for S.T.E.M. for underrepresented groups and it also supports initiatives in education for women and girls,” says Harvell, a mother of five girls who practices dentistry in New Jersey.
Creating a Global Vision in New York
Harvell started her practice in 2008 and later founded the charitable arm last October. “As small business owners, we are often solicited by community organizations for donations and we decided to streamline our philanthropy to support initiatives that we are most passionate about,” shares Harvell.
The vision of the Iconoclast Dinner Experience was more than creating a great event to raise money, but an opportunity to showcase the talents of people of color in culinary, wine and spirits. “I love food as a hobby, not only going to fine restaurants but I also love to go to wine and food festivals. I sort of plan my schedule around them every year and throughout my experience as a gastronome, I have found that there is a lack of representation of not just black chefs but black somms and black people in beverage so my husband and I thought it would be a really, really great idea to have an event that featured these professionals of color at the James Beard House which is symbolic of excellence in those particular professions,” says Harvell. “The vision is to bring all of these icons of color together to collaborate on a meal that people will be talking about for an entire year. Not just the meal but the entire experience. Interacting with the chefs, interacting with the sommelier and just having an experience that stimulates all of their senses.”
The Iconoclast Dinner did just that bringing together celebrity chefs Tre Wilcox (TRE Cooking Concepts – Dallas), Nina Compton (Compere Lapin – New Orleans), Joe “JJ” Johnson (The Cecil & Minton’s – Harlem), Preston Clark (Lure FishBar – NYC), Nyesha Arrington (Leona – Coming Fall 2015 in Venice, CA) and Graham Hornigold (Hakkasan Group – London). South African sommelier, Luvo Ntezo (One & Only – Cape Town) paired the chefs’ dishes that included Poached Octopus, Heirloom Tomato and Smoked Potato Puree by Compton, Braised Goat, West African Peanut Sauce, Corn Mash and Cherry Cilantro Salad by Johnson and a ceviche by Wilcox with wines from Black vintners Brown Estate and Mouton Noir as well as South African brands imported by Cape Classics. Barcadi’s national training manager Colin Asare Appiah crafted the pre-dinner reception spirits that included his Pearl Martini and Green River cocktails.
An Evening to Remember
Harvell worked closely with honorary chair chef Herb Wilson (Red Ginger – Miami) to conceptualize what the dinner would look like and the idea of bringing a team of chefs, wine and spirit professionals who are at the top of their game together for an unforgettable evening.
Together, the team wowed a small intimate crowd of 50 guests who got a chance to meet and talk with each of them, adding that personal touch that you don’t get to do at other events and festivals.
A silent auction was held on Charity Buzz with two experiences left to bid on that will benefit The Dental Kidz Foundation. Spend a day with TLC’s style expert Tia Beauchamp or be a guest on CNN’s set of New Day in New York and meet Michaela Pereira. Bidding ends on Tuesday, July 14.
The Iconoclast Dinner followed with The After Party Experience at the Alvin Ailey Studios with small bites by Spoonbread, Inc. and cocktails by Junior “The Liquid Chef” Merino.
With a successful event under her belt, Harvell is looking at how to repeat the fundraising dinner next year. Supporters of Spelman as well as scholarships are encouraged to donate all year long by going on Spelman’s donation page at www.spelman.edu and designating a contribution to the Dr. Lezli Levene Harvell Scholarship for International Students.
For more information and photos from the iconic evening, visit www.iconoclastdinner.com.