This Weekend, Some of Dallas' Biggest Chefs Will Rappel Down Reunion Tower For a Good Cause

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It is an endearing human trait that only seems more prominent as social media dominates more of our lives: People will do a lot of crazy things to raise money and awareness for a cause they feel strongly about.

Biking 150 miles for multiple sclerosis, dumping a bucket of ice on your head for ALS — all of that seems like child's play when you consider what six Dallas dining heavy-hitters are about to do this weekend. On Saturday, May 13, they will rappel 50 stories from the top Reunion Tower.

They'll be joined by dozens of other fundraising daredevils, all of them raising money and awareness for Shatterproof, a nonprofit dedicated to ending the stigma around drug and alcohol addiction. The Dallas Chefs team, which as of Thursday afternoon had raised about $22,000 of their $25,000 goal, boasts some serious culinary talent: Stephan Pyles, Aaron Staudenmaier (Lovers Seafood & Market), Molly Mandell (Greenville Avenue Pizza Co.), Nathan Tate (Rapscallion), Matt McCallister (FT33), Alex Astranti (Uchi), Tim Byres (Smoke) and Katherine Clapner (Dude, Sweet Chocolate).

Aaron Staudenmaier says he's done some rappelling in the past, but never from a building in downtown Dallas on a bustling Saturday afternoon.

"I'm cognizant of the danger the way anyone should be approaching something like that, but I ride a motorcycle, I skydive, I've done a little low-height cliff diving — I didn't survive addiction to live a boring life," he says.

Staudenmaier started drinking and smoking at age 12, he says, and after a decade of drugs and alcohol, got clean in his early 20s.

"I consider myself very fortunate that I got an early start, packed as many bad decisions as I could into a decade, learned my lessons and moved on," Staudenmaier says.

He's not the only one on the Dallas Chefs team with a history of addiction.

"The disease of addiction is near and dear to me," Matt McCallister said in a Facebook post. "I struggled with drug addiction and alcoholism for the good majority of my life."

In recent years, as some of the social stigma around addiction has finally started to wane, substance abuse in the bar and restaurant industries has been an oft-discussed topic.

"I think that this industry makes it easy to function as an addict because of the access to — and expected consumption of — lots of liquor, wine and beer as part of the job," Staudenmaier says. "I think that attracts addicts who then surround themselves in a culture of addiction. That culture then recruits more people who support it, including users of harder drugs. It's an incredibly difficult culture to change and, in many kitchens, is part of the personality of that business."

But the restaurant industry, particularly in Dallas, is also one that rallies hard for causes they can get behind. And all day Saturday, you can head downtown and watch these Dallas chefs, along with dozens of other Shatterproof supporters, do something a little crazy, but for a good reason.

"The coolest part of this benefit, to me, is the chance to demonstrate the amazing possibilities that come with recovery," Staudenmaier says.

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