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Change Agents

The city’s biggest hearts gather to wine and dine for those in need.

Kathryne de Guardiola’s grand dining room


Only three doors down from the governor’s mansion on West Paces Ferry Road, a group of private Atlanta citizens are coming together to affect change in a community that desperately needs their help, but is a little too remote to be on Gov. Nathan Deal’s radar.

These philanthropists are gathering to help those in need some 1,300 miles away in Haiti. The idea? Ten multimillionaires put up $10,000 each for an exquisite gourmet dinner at the Buckhead estate of Kathryne de Guardiola to raise money for Heifer International. The nonprofit is a well-respected Haiti relief organization that helps families in impoverished nations through a crop-livestock program that has been incredibly successful at job creation, income generation and skills training. One hundred percent of the night’s proceeds will go to the charity.

Among the attendees are the 10 multimillionaires, their guests, a couple of speakers from Heifer International and me. As a group, we round out at just under 25 people here tonight to experience this special event.

I arrive at de Guardiola’s manse to find other guests congregating in her foyer, sipping on generous glasses of Champagne Nicolas Feuillatte Brut Blanc NV, which has been donated for the evening. I spot Atlanta notables Steve and Millie Smith, Dr. Heather Richardson, Pam Smart and Lisa Fuller chatting away. Everyone is delighting in passed hors d’oeuvres, including petite eggplant parmigiana and ahi tuna supli with braised calabrese chiles prosciutto di Parma e grissini, all prepared by chef Piero Premoli and his pastry chef, Jennifer Etchison of Pricci, who donated their time and provisions to the event.

I look to my left and spot Pierre Ferrari, the CEO of Heifer and former senior vice president of Coca-Cola USA and chairman of the board of Ben & Jerry’s, who is talking to Ted Turner’s PR guru and social butterfly Sona Chambers. The intimate gathering is underway as we all mix and mingle, and are introduced to new faces around the room.

After we’ve all become acquainted, we are escorted into de Guardiola’s exquisite dining room, which is two stories high with colossal windows overlooking the pool and grounds of the estate. The decor, flawlessly executed by Tony Brewer & Co., is a gilded triumph. Gray and gold tablecloths with copper chairs anchor the towering candelabras filled with cream-colored roses, calla lilies and colorful hydrangeas on each table.

We take our places, and as course after course of Premoli’s culinary creations come out, guests such as Ashley Gordon, Margine Miller, Cyndi Sudvern, David Schofield and Kwanza Hall can’t help but ooh and aah with each bite. They are loving every morsel. Even these sophisticated palates are blown away by the magic he’s creating in the kitchen.

Vitello tonnato, which has been sous-vide for 14 hours, arrives with traditional salsa tonnata and a generous pour of Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars sauvignon blanc.

The next four courses are listed in beautiful calligraphy on a menu card placed at each table setting donated by Exquisite Stationery by Harrison Rohr, who did the detailed programs, as well as invites for the night’s festivities. I salivate as I ogle the lineup still to come: local ghost pumpkin and Parmesan-filled tortelloni with roasted heirloom tomato lobster sauce. Later, a highly curated cheese plate and then a Madagascan tanzerena chocolate bonet finish out the feast.

But the encore? Two-time Grammy-winner Crystal Nicole, who has written hit songs for Jennifer Lopez, Rihanna and Sean Combs, serenades the small crowd with a song she wrote for the occasion. Her voice blows everyone away. After a standing ovation, she sings Aretha Franklin’s “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman” to commemorate the ladies in the Heifer program.

As Ferrari explains to guests, Heifer has discovered that if you support a woman, she supports the whole community. The ripple effect has been proven again and again. The funds going to the organization will purchase goats and cows, but they also teach women to use the animal’s milk to make fudge and other goods. With just over 20 guests, they were able to raise $160,000.

The evening was so enjoyable that, although the event began at 6pm, guests stayed until well after 11pm. That’s when I overhear our gracious host, de Guardiola, say, “When am I going to get to go to bed?” Always the sign of a good party!