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Triangle Downtowner Magazine

A Culinary Crusade Against Addiction's Cruel Grip

May 27, 2024 04:26PM ● By Crash Gregg
The rhythmic chopping of blades against cutting boards fills the air, mingling with the savory aromas wafting from sizzling pans. However, more than just delectable dishes are being prepared in this outdoor farm kitchen. A greater purpose simmers beneath the surface – a rallying cry against the scourge of addiction that has claimed far too many lives.

For Chef Blake Gotliffe, the path to this culinary crusade was paved with heartbreak and personal struggles. In 2014, he lost his best friend, Reece Byrd, to the unforgiving clutch of heroin addiction. Reece was not the only casualty; Gotliffe himself battled opiate addiction for years, a battle he has now emerged victorious from after over 13 years of sobriety.

Reese Byrd

 Reese Byrd

But Reece's untimely demise ignited a flame within Gotliffe, a determination to ensure no one else would suffer the same tragic fate. From the ashes of his grief rose the Roots for Reece Chef's Picnic, a culinary event that has blossomed into a community battle against the opioid epidemic. The first event involved local farmers and restaurants, which donated root vegetables and prepared dishes, respectively, hence the name Roots for Reece.

What began as intimate farm dinners hosted by Gotliffe and fellow chefs Sean Fowler of Mandolin and Eric Montagne of Locals Seafood has evolved into a full-fledged culinary celebration, attracting an army of local chefs, breweries, bars, and distilleries. Their collective mission? To raise funds and awareness for the North Carolina Harm Reduction Coalition (NCHRC), a grassroots organization on the front lines of opiate overdose prevention and education.

2023 Roots for Reece chefs and volunteers

2023 Roots for Reece chefs and volunteers

Joining Gotliffe in this crusade is Kelli Pfitzner, whose own battles with overprescribed opioids and the loss of friends to addiction fueled her passion for the cause. With a professional background in event planning and nonprofit work, Kelli’s highest priority is boosting the fundraiser’s success and supporting those battling addiction. Together, they have harnessed the power of community and culinary excellence to make a tangible difference, raising vital funds to purchase the life-saving drug Naloxone and support NCHRC's mission.

On June 9th, the sixth annual Roots for Reece Chef's Picnic will unfold at Haven Farm in Knightdale, North Carolina. A veritable feast for the senses awaits, with over 25 local food and beverage establishments showcasing their culinary artistry through small plates and beverages. From the smoky allure of barbecue to the refined elegance of fine dining, every bite and sip will be a testament to the resilience of the human spirit and the power of community.

Amidst the indulgence, the true heart of the event will beat with a singular purpose: to raise funds and awareness in the battle against addiction. Live music, children's activities, and a silent auction will complement the culinary delights, fostering an atmosphere of hope, healing, and camaraderie.

Kelli Pfitzner and Blake Gotliffe

 Kelli Pfitzner and Blake Gotliffe

For Gotliffe, Pfitzner, and the multitude of chefs, volunteers, and attendees who rally behind this cause, the Roots for Reece Chef's Picnic is more than just a celebration of food – it is a defiant stand against the devastating toll of addiction. With every plate served, every glass raised, and every dollar contributed, they forge a path toward a future where no life is senselessly cut short by the grip of substance abuse.

In this culinary crusade, the ingredients are love, resilience, and an unwavering commitment to saving lives. And as the aromas of delicious dishes and triumph waft through the air, they carry the promise of helping to loosen addiction's cruel grip, one person at a time.

Tickets are available at

Anyone interested in sponsoring the event, donating a silent auction item, or volunteering for the event can email [email protected].

Over 25 local food and beverage establishments will be joining the cause this year, with sample small plates and beverages from:
• Bodega Tapas
• Deep River Brewing
• Elevated Catering
• Haven Farm
• Julep Contemporary Kitchen
• Lakewood Social
• Layered Croissanterie
• Lawrence BBQ/Leroy’s Taco Shop
• Locals Seafood
• Longleaf Swine BBQ
• Native Fine Diner
• Oro Restaurant
• Postal Fish Company
• Revival 1869
• Southern Smoke BBQ
• The Perfect Plan NC
• The Umstead Hotel and Spa
• The Willard
• Trophy Brewing
• Umbrella Dry Bar
• Under the Oak Catering
• William and Company
• Young Hearts Distillery
• With more coming

We hope to see you there.