Last summer and fall were some of the driest on record and led to some really frightening wild fires that spread through the Southeast. These fires raged from the highly publicized Gatlinburg fires to the fires in the Chattanooga area. Trees died, ponds dried up, and most areas in North Georgia were placed on a water-rationing schedule. Almost all of the fires were started by people, from careless campers to kids wanting to “see what a fire looked like.” Despite how they started, this is the first I have ever heard of forest fires in the Tennessee Valley of this proportion, and as you all may recall, it got a little dicey at times as communities fought these terrifying fires.
Back in November 2016, our hometown chef Lee Cureton heard about the forest fires on the radio, which had spread all over the Chattanooga area. She immediately went to the store to buy bottled water, snacks and other requested supplies, and delivered them to crews of firefighters working at the Slygo fire near Trenton, Ga. Ironically, it was from her good deed of donating water and supplies that a local forestry worker asked for her business card, and, soon thereafter, the Georgia Forestry Department asked if she could provides three meals a day of rotating lunches and dinners to the crews as they changed shifts.
Lee provided lunches and dinners for 12 straight days, until November 26, totaling almost 1,000 meals! Along with the meals, she organized donations of water and other supplies as fires raged from Wildwood to Lookout Mountain, Taylor’s Ridge to Signal Mountain and Fox Mountain to Sand Mountain. Volunteers she organized also helped assemble the lunch bags and packaged food into individual containers. As a state agency, the Georgia Forestry Department had certain nutritional guidelines that had to be met, but that was no problem for Lee with her years of cooking experience.
The forest fires weren’t the only challenge Lee jumped in to assist with in 2016; a Southeast Lineman Training Center student fell from a pole and was seriously injured. The young man, and his wife, who were expecting a child, suffered a real financial setback because of this injury and related surgeries. Lee immediately organized a luncheon fundraiser. A few years earlier, Lee did the same thing for a friend and church member who was diagnosed with a brain tumor.
While I have known Lee a long time, going back to days when she was at GPS and I was at Baylor, I have enjoyed getting to know her better recently. She has a real love for what she does and is willing to provide a very customized culinary experience. Her catering company, Culinary Creations Catering Company, is celebrating its 10th year, and I would like to congratulate her, not just for her successful 10 years in catering, but for being a loving, caring neighbor and friend to our community. Anyone who can prepare a small side of squash casserole as a needed add-on for a prepared meal, as well as prepare a several-course seated wedding reception meal for 350 people, and do so with a constant smile and good attitude, all the while serving her community, deserves an award of recognition. Thank you for all of your community support, Lee, and congratulations!
For more information on Lee Cureton, visit the Culinary Creations website, follow it on Facebook, or call (423) 802-0695.