Local Spotlight

Houston Restaurant and Bar Industry Rallies for One of Its Own

Linda Salinas is a talented sommelier and bartender. She's worked at and with some of Houston's best bars and restaurants: Voice, Anvil, Branch Water Tavern, Bootsie's, Beaver's, 13 Celsius and Kata Robata. She is a fixture within the industry scene, helping out at every single Houston Chowhound throwdown and working as many fundraising and charity dinners as possible. She's a former Houston Roller Derby girl and a scooter rider.

She was involved in an accident late Sunday night, on that same blue-and-white scooter for which she's often recognized, and is now in intensive care at Ben Taub. And while people are still finding out about Salinas's accident and trying to figure out how best to help, the bar and restaurant industry has already quickly mobilized to support one of its own.

So, too, has the huge community of food lovers in Houston, which is using Twitter and Facebook to set up donation pages and group accounts to help Salinas's friends keep track of updates from the hospital as well as upcoming fundraising events.

There can be just as much ego and competition as humility and camaraderie in the restaurant industry; it's a tribute to Houston's food community that it chooses to focus its energies on the latter. Donations for silent auctions to be held over the next few weeks began pouring in within hours, all organized by Greenway Coffee & Tea's David Buehrer, food fan Liz Fenton and food blogger Phaedra Cook, while Anvil's Bobby Heugel held an impromptu meeting last night at Grand Prize Bar to discuss monetary donations for Salinas's medical care and future events.

Tracy Vaught from Backstreet Cafe, Prego and Hugo's donated a $200 gift certificate to her restaurants. Nathan Ketchum from Samba Grille donated a tasting for four along with wine pairings. Ronnie Killen from Killen's Steakhouse donated a chef's table dinner for six. Urban Harvest donated a one-year membership to Urban Harvest, as well as one individual class and a three-gallon fruit tree.

And those donations were just the tip of the iceberg.

Paul Petronella from Paulie's has organized a block party to take place this Sunday, April 10, at his restaurant. A bake sale from Jodycakes will raise money, as will donations from a silent auction to be held from 4 to 8 p.m. Many of Houston's most popular food trucks will selling food, as will Paulie's itself, the proceeds of which are also going to Salinas's medical care fund.

It doesn't stop there, though. More fundraising dinners are in the works, including a food truck rally and a tasting dinner that's tentatively scheduled to be held at Haven, which will feature food from plenty of local restaurants.

But even more touching are the small ways in which Houston's food community is helping out: Fellow bartender Mindy Kucan volunteered to donate all of her tips from this Saturday at Anvil, by far the bar's busiest night. Bartender John Betik from BRC Gastropub offered the same for today's shift. And Catalina Coffee is selling $8 half-pounds of coffee, with all proceeds going directly to Salinas. (Chef Chris Shepherd of Catalan quickly bought up today's supply, but Catalina will have more in tomorrow.)

In an industry where so many live off tips and have no medical insurance of their own, these generous acts are reminders that we can all give during events like this, no matter our own personal situations. And they're even more visceral reminders that Houston is a pretty goddamned awesome city where people take care of each other, period.

At a time when national food website Eater is busy choosing Dallas over Houston as its next featured food city, we're too busy being awesome to care. To whit, former EOW blogger J.C. Reid put it best this morning: "I'd say the [Linda Salinas] mobilization confirms that Houston doesn't need a national rag like Eater.com to validate the food community here."

If you'd like to donate to Linda Salinas's medical fund, visit her ChipIn page. As of this writing, $2,835 has been raised. A tribute to Houston, and a tribute to Linda.

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