Albany Museum of Art offers ‘Fine Art of Dining’ series

Jan 04, 2016

By Carlton Fletcher, Albany Herald

ALBANY — Attention, Southwest Georgia foodies who frequently travel to distant cities for an — often expensive — evening of fine dining: The Albany Museum of Art is offering opportunities to get your fine food fix right here at home and at a comparative bargain. Plus, it helps support the museum.

The art museum will offer the second event in its unique culinary series The Fine Art of Dining on Jan. 23 at the home of Bonny and Bo Dorough. Native Albany chefs Tom Rutland, Todd White and Bradley Rouse, along with AMA Board of Trustees President and volunteer sous chef Kirk Rouse, will showcase their talents by preparing a meal featuring Southern cuisine that will rival anything served at the finest restaurants from Atlanta to Montgomery to Tallahassee.

“When (AMA Executive Director) Paula (Williams) and I and a few other board members met to come up with ideas for museum fundraisers, we started working from the idea that ‘food is art,’” Kirk Rouse said. “Everyone likes to eat, and I think a lot of people would be surprised at the number of local folks who travel all the way to Atlanta for an opportunity to eat a $500 meal at a fine restaurant.”

Williams picks up on the story.

“Yeah, and that’s not even counting the cost of travel to Atlanta and getting a room at a hotel,” she says. “It can be quite expensive for foodies.”

The brainstorming session resulted in The Fine Art of Dining, a series of exclusive dinners at some of Albany’s unique homes.

“I’ve gone to a number of events that focus on food, but I’ve never heard of anyone doing a series of dinners like this,” Rouse said. “We thought it would be a great opportunity to showcase some of Albany’s finest homes and some of the best chefs from the region cooking their signature dishes made from locally grown products.”

Williams said the germ of the idea spread quickly among board members.

“At the first meeting, we came up with what would be the bones of this concept: ‘Fine Dining Meets Tour of Homes,’” the museum director said. “It grew into an idea of offering fine dining experiences in intimate settings. We felt that would make the series more special, more fun.”

If the first dinner of the series, held Oct. 24 at the historic Third Avenue home of Amy and Chuck Jones, is any indication, the AMA has a hit on its hands.

“We were excited to showcase our home, which has a lot of history,” Chuck Jones said as his guests arrived for the event that was dubbed “It’s a Harvest Moon.” “It’s an opportunity for good friends to enjoy a unique meal together while celebrating — and supporting — the art museum.”

Chef Jamie Keating, owner of the four-diamond EPIC restaurant in Columbus, “set the bar high” for the series with his exquisite meal.

“There are so many talented chefs who are either from our area or have ties here,” Rouse said. “Jamie is one of the best, and most of the food he prepared was grown locally. He set the bar high for everyone who will follow. I’ve eaten at a lot of places in my life, but I was blown away by this meal. He had me coming out of my seat.”

Following that tough act will be Rutland, who, in addition to working at Albany’s Henry Campbell’s, served as chef at fine establishments in Charleston, S.C.; Jackson Hole, Wyo.; Sonoma County, Calif., and Atlanta. He’ll be joined by White, who has worked at establishments in Atlanta and Savannah, and Bradley Rouse, who has worked at famous restaurants in Atlanta and Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

Kirk Rouse, Bradley’s father, is excited to be cooking in such company.

“I’m a cook, not a chef,” the elder Rouse said. “Believe me, there’s a big difference. But cooking is a passion of mine, and I am honored to be a part of this event.”

Subsequent Fine Art of Dining series events are scheduled Feb. 13 at the Albany Museum of Art (“The Fine Art of Love”); the already-sold-out March 19 “A River Soiree” at the home of Jim and Evelyn Wilcox, featuring Chef Peter Dale of The National in Athens and sous chefs Ira Roth and Bronwyn Hinton; the April 15 “Do You Voodoo?” event at the home of Ripley Bell and featuring PBS cooking series host Chef Lara Lyn Carter; as well as the May 14 “Taste Your Soul” event at the home of Dr. Tim and Paula Williams, featuring Chefs Angus Brown of Lusca in Atlanta and Hudson Rouse, who owns All-Star Chefs of Atlanta and is chef at Alma Cocina in Georgia’s capital city.

Single tickets for each event are $200 for patron members and $250 for non-members. Each event is limited to 32 guests.

As Rouse and Williams discuss The Fine Art of Dining series at the museum, the screams of excited children can be heard in the background.

“Those kids out there running around; that’s who these fundraisers are for,” the museum board of trustees president says. “We’re a nonprofit organization that, I think, provides a very important service for our community. It’s been proven that children who have the opportunity to visit museums, it raises their IQs and test scores.

“Plus, I think our museum is sometimes overlooked for the economic impact it has on the community. As a quality-of-life destination that helps attract individuals and businesses, I believe the impact is in the millions.”

Tickets for remaining supper series events are available by calling the museum at (229) 439-8400. Checks may be mailed to 311 Meadowlark Drive, Albany 31707, and additional information is available online at

“When we decided not to continue the Let’s Make a Bid fundraiser, we had to come up with something that would allow us to continue to provide events and exhibitions free of charge to the community,” Rouse said. “We think this supper series is perfect for our community.

“There’s always a lot of hoopla surrounding special events in the community, but I hope everyone realizes how significant it is to support one of only 13 accredited museums in the state of Georgia, and have it right here in Southwest Georgia. And I can attest, these dinners are true works of art.”

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