Mama’s Kitchen is gearing up to host the annual Mama’s Day benefit, a culinary celebration of San Diego’s renowned restaurants with tastings, chef demos, and a foodie-focused opportunity drawing.
Now in its 21st year, Mama’s Day takes place on Friday, May 11 from 6:30 to 9:30pm at the Hyatt Regency La Jolla at The Aventine. And as always, proceeds will support the organization’s ongoing efforts to prepare and deliver meals at no cost to San Diegans affected by AIDS, cancer and other critical illnesses.
In honor of Mama’s Day, we selected one of the many outstanding volunteers that work hard to make Mama’s Kitchen’s dreams come true. Heather Bowden is a passionate member of the Mama’s Kitchen organization, and has been an active donor and volunteer since 2005. Most notable, Bowden is the Chair of Mama’s Day this year, and has added some exciting new entertainment perks into the mix.
Get to know Heather Bowden of Mama’s Kitchen in this week’s Style Profile.
Q: How long have you lived in San Diego? Neighborhood?
A: Native! Born at Mercy Hospital, raised in south Mission Beach. My family moved to La Jolla in the late '70s. I moved after college to Santa Fe, NM for 10 years. I moved back to La Jolla in 2000 where I am now.
Q: How did you get involved with Mama’s Kitchen of San Diego?
A: I think it was around 2005. Mama’s is similar to a non-profit I donated (graphic) design work to in Santa Fe in ‘90s. I was losing a lot of friends to AIDS - we all were - but it was the death of my dear friend and roommate that set this wheel in motion. The pain Tommy went through on all levels - the physical pain itself, the psychological & emotional in dealing with his family who rejected that he was even sick much less gay - it was disturbing and profound enough to make a promise: promote awareness and give back even more (I come from a very philanthropic family). When I found Mama’s Kitchen it was a no brainer.
Q: What is your role with the organization?
A: I am a donor and volunteer. And this year’s proud Chair for their monumental annual fundraiser: Mama’s Day.
Q: Why is philanthropy important to you?
A: My parents have always taught me to give back. They lead by example. Selfishly, it makes me feel better to get out of my own muck and take on someone else’s problems. It makes mine look a hell of a lot better. We take too much for granted – it’s a great way to understand that when you think your life is crap, likely someone else is having a much harder time than you. Gratitude, humility and perspective.
Q: What is your current profession, outside Mama’s Kitchen volunteer work?
A: Ha! That’s right – I do have another job! I run our family business in residential rental properties.
Q: What is your background in education?
A: I went to U.C. Berkeley and majored in art history. Which lead me to being a graphic designer for way too long.
Q: How do you describe your personal fashion sense?
A: Here comes the hard part of this interview. In that I don’t consider myself to really have one. But something like Patti Hansen meets Free People sprinkled with Stevie Nicks and Animal from the Muppets all who secretly moonlight at J. Crew.
Q: From head to toe, what do you feel best wearing?
A: Jeans. Some (tattered) shirt or tank and flip flops. Or a bikini.
Q: What are your favorite local San Diego fashion and home décor boutiques?
A: My friend Eric has a great shop in Pacific Beach – Chillers Showroom. But honestly, does online shopping count? As per home décor: DWR (Design within Reach). Modern. Simple. Good design.
Q: What are your favorite high-fashion designers of all time?
A: I have two classics in my wardrobe: 1 Diane Von Furstenburg dress. 1 Vintage Halston. Anything circa 1970s works for me.
Q: San Diego hair salon and stylist you can’t live without?
A: STUDIO B! Monique Blair has been my go-to for years and never lets me down. She cut off all my hair in December and it was the best thing we ever did.
Q: What is your perfect San Diego weekend?
A: It always revolves around a good live music show at the Belly Up, Casbah or Anthology. Or when my friend Jana, at the Hard Rock, pulls in an amazing band. You can’t go wrong at any of those venues.
Otherwise, I would prefer to set aside a night of cooking or a BBQ, specifically out of my organic gardens, with friends. Some wine or my friend Amy’s infamous margaritas might be involved as well. That usually leads to dancing.
Oh wait, that’s night activities…daytime: working in the gardens – we grow 365 days here in San Diego! Anything outside. Practice Yoga with my teacher Dan Thomas. Beach time and in or on the water. Hit a farmer’s market. Read a book. Sunday New York Times crossword a must. Watching my buddies on the Nomad soccer team play on Sundays.
Q: What are your daily reads?
A: New York Times. The Week. I don’t read online. I like old school.
Q: No matter how busy you are, you always make time for ___.
A: My Friends. My godchildren. My parents. Music. Dancing. Laughing. Mama’s Kitchen.
Q: What are you most excited about for Mama’s Day this year?
A: Oh where to start – aside from attempting to sample all the amazing restaurants that work so hard to create a signature dish – there are many “firsts” this year that I am very excited to see what happens and hear the feedback. The VIP reception has a live performance with Sam “the Cooking Guy” Zien and Ian Ward, of Snake Oil Cocktail Co. Sam’s preparing a signature dish and Ian will create a cocktail to complement Sam’s sampler. It will be a bit interactive with the guests so everyone should have a good laugh.
There is also another “first” that we’ve been calling the Gallery Project. I pushed fairly hard to get this launched – and Sam (the cooking guy) helped. Not only did he fully endorse it but brought us his photographer, Lynn Chyi. I wanted to find a way to really make a profound impact on the guests about how important Mama’s Kitchen’s mission is – what the mission is for that matter. This is a roaming event which presents a challenge in capturing every guest’s attention when it comes time for thank yous and talking about the mission.
So I sketched out a story board inspired by a photography show I saw of portraits, brought that idea to Mama’s Kitchen, and ultimately we approached clients, donors and volunteers to be photographed. They are being printed as large scale images that will be mounted in one of the entryways into the event – again, impact (bigger is better). I wanted everyone to understand the humanity embedded in Mama’s work. And everyone has a story. We discussed with Lynn what we wanted and WOW! Did he nail it. The images are beautiful, moving, candid yet not staged. Working with him was amazing. Lynn captured every nuance of each person which hopefully carries over into how and why there are affiliated and/or affected by Mama’s Kitchen. This gallery was created to educate and inspire others to get out there and make time to give back – and what value it brings.
Mama’s Kitchen presents the 21st annual Mama’s Day culinary benefit at the Hyatt Regency La Jolla at The Aventine on Friday, May 11. For tickets and more information, visit mamaskitchen.org
See for Yourself: View our gallery of 2011 Mama's Day event photos
Photos of Heather Bowden by Bradley Schweit