"A Love Shared," an event to raise funds for ALS research, took place Sunday.
According to its Facebook page, the sold-out event was "a collaborative effort between the North Fork Table and Inn, renowned Long Island chefs, local farmers and important community businesses," called "Hayden's Heroes."
The goal was to bring together the best of North Fork food, wine, and star chef power at 8 Hands Far min Cutchogue, with a goal of raising $75,000 for ALS research and chef Gerry Hayden in his fight against the disease.Hayden, chef and co-founder of Southold's North Fork Table, known for its culinary excellence, has been battling ALS; Hayden said the night was a testament to the power of a caring community.
"The night was overwhelming, unconditional love," he said. "The event was a huge success for ALS research and patient care."
According to the ALS Association, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, commonly known as Lou Gehrig's disease, "is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord."
As motor neurons degenerate and die, the ability of the brain to control muscle movement is lost, and patients may become totally paralyzed and have difficulty breathing, the site states.
Hayden, who will be 49 in November, was diagnosed with ALS three years ago.
"This disease is devastating," Hayden said. "It's really horrible. It takes everything from you, except for your brain, which is still intact."
The award-winning chef has lost the use of his hands and can no longer work in his renowned kitchen.
He is also wheelchair bound and on a machine to help him breath.
Despite the fact that the disease is so debilitating, Hayden said not much is known about ALS.
"This disease needs so much more attention," he said. "No one even really remembers who Lou Gehrig is anymore. They have no idea how absolutely cruel this disease is."
Hayden believes his disease may have been sparked by "outside influences" such as chemicals in the water supply and pesticides in food that existed before today's grass-fed beef and focus on organic farming.
Hayden recently started a farmer's market outside the North Fork Table every Friday morning from 8 a.m. until 11 a.m.
Hayden, who was born in Setauket, summered in Jameport; his wife was born in Brentwood.
"We're both Long Islanders," he said. "When I was diagnosed, the community, the farmers and people I work with wanted to do something."
The impact of ALS on Hayden's life has been devastating, he said.
"It's an incredibly difficult thing," he said. Even talking is a challenge because Hayden loses his breath easily. "The diaphragm is a muscle. What will eventually happen is I won't be able to breathe anymore and may need a respirator or tracheotomy."
Hayden's entire world has shifted. "I've gone from a guy who was working 18 hours a day with my wife at a dream restaurant to a guy who is stuck home alone in a wheelchair with a breathing machine."
But still, his optimism remains intact. So many other ALS victims, he said, are facing far worse physical challenges. "I'm the lucky one," he said.
Participating in the October A Love Shared event to help their friend and fellow chef were Lia Fallon of The Riverhead Project, Hayden and his wife, Claudia Fleming of the North Fork Table, Terry Harwood of the Blue Canoe, Vine Street Cafe, Keith Luce from The Square, Sam McCLeland of The Beacon and Bell & Anchor, Michael Meehan of H20 Seafood Grill, Christian Mir of the Stone Creek Inn, Joseph Realmuto of Nick & Toni's, Guy Reuge of Mirabelle, Tom Schaudel of A Lure and A Mano, and John Ross. Other local businesses and farmers onboard include Browder's Birds, Catapano Dairy, Deep Roots Farm, 8 Hands Farm, Invincible Summer Farms, Mar-Gene Farms, McCall Ranch, Oysterpond Farms, Race Rock Oysters, A Taste of the North Fork.
"Gerry is one of my biggest fans, admired chefs, and has a heart of gold," Fallon said. "His story and accomplishments have inspired all of us."