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  • Photography by Katie Childs

Blue Plate Special to Unite Chefs, Mixologists to Support the Arts and Thea Foundation

Chef Payne Harding of Cache prepares decadent hors d'oeuvres for Thea Foundation's Blue Plate Special in 2017

Thea Foundation’s Blue Plate Special returns to the luxurious Capital Hotel Monday, October 15, 2018, with a fresh crop of Arkansas’s favorite chefs and mixologists, assisted by local artists, musicians and celebrities and accompanied by the music of Dr. Danny Fletcher and Co. The Blue Plate Special is presented by Malvern National Bank, a longtime supporter of the Thea Foundation and its mission of advocating and expanding the arts in Arkansas schools, and chaired by Rusty Mathis, General Manager of Ben E. Keith Foods Mid-South.

Rusty Mathis started his saga in the hospitality industry in 1978 as a bellman at the Holiday Inn on Lake Hamilton in Hot Springs. A hard worker and natural leader, he worked his way up to Assistant General Manager by the age of 21 before branching out into the local restaurant scene. He landed at Ben E. Keith Foods in Mountain Home in 1994 as a sales representative, worked his way to District Sales Manager in Arkadelphia, Assistant General Manager then General Manager of the New Mexico division, and finally came home to Arkansas to become General Manager of Ben E. Keith’s Mid-South Division in 2007. He and his wife Stacy call North Little Rock home and love to give back to their community. After serving on the Thea Foundation board for several years, during which he helped found the Blue Plate Special—then called the Governor’s Culinary Challenge—as a way to elevate the local culinary arts scene while supporting the arts in Arkansas, Rusty remains supportive of the foundation and many other worthy causes in our state and is a local legend in the Arkansas culinary scene.

2018 Blue Plate Special Chair, Rusty Mathis of Ben E. Keith

This year’s chefs include: Amanda Ivy, Sauced Bar and Oven; Payne Harding, Cache; Gilbert Alaquinez, Forty-Two; Marc Guizol, Capital Bar & Grill; Matcha Norwood, Cinnalightful; Kim Henderson, Heritage Catering; Capi Peck, Trio’s; Greg Wallis, Kemuri; Kelli Marks, Cathead’s Diner; and a to-be-announced chef from Petit & Keet. Mixologists are Alex Smith, of The Fold; and Luiggi Uzcategui, of Big Orange Midtown. Assisting the chefs and mixologists will be artists who represent the six categories in which Thea Foundation awards scholarships each year (visual art, performing art, film, creative writing, spoken word and fashion design): Bryant Phelan, fashion designer; James Hayes, glass artist ; Gerry Bruno, filmmaker; Genine Latrice Perez, musician; Janis Kearney, author; Matt McLeod, artist; Rodney Block, musician; Kevin Kresse, artist; Barry Thomas, artist; Amy Garland Angel, musician; Linda Rowe Thomas, fashion designer; and Stacey and LeRon McAdoo, spoken word poets.

Capital Hotel chef Marc Guizol and Musician Rodney Block serve dessert at Thea Foundation's Blue Plate Special 2017

Proceeds from the Blue Plate Special will benefit Thea Foundation and support its mission to ensure that all Arkansas students have access to the arts. Additionally, the Charles A. Frueauff Foundation has offered a challenge grant of $25,000 to match the first $25,000 raised by the Blue Plate Special. Reserve your tickets today, and help us earn $25,000 in matching funds!

The Blue Plate Special is presented by Malvern National Bank. Our Chef de Cuisine level sponsors are Jo and Presley Melton. Our Sous Chef Level sponsors include The Cabe Foundation; Dean Dental Solutions; Delta Dental; and Southland Park Gaming and Racing; Southwest Power Pool. Our Maitre D’ level sponsors include Centennial Bank; Janet and Glenn Davis; EVO Business Environments; UA – Pulaski Tech; and US Bank. In-kind sponsors include Ben E. Keith; The Capital Hotel; and Southern Glazers Wine and Spirits.

Individual tickets to the Blue Plate Special are $100 and are available online at or by phone at (501) 379-9512.

Big Orange mixologist Luiggi Uzcategui uses fire to prepare his signature cocktail for Thea Foundation's Blue Plate Special 2017

Thea Foundation

Thea Foundation’s mission is to advocate the importance of the Arts in the development of Arkansas's youth. Our programs are designed to help youth find confidence through creative expression, during and after school. Thea Foundation has awarded more than $2.25 million in scholarships to Arkansas high school seniors, distributed more than $1.5 million in art supplies to underfunded schools and implemented many programs that provide creative experiences for Arkansas's youth. For more information about Thea Foundation, visit or call (501) 379-9512.

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