On Thursday night, Kelly Porter’s Prairie Village kitchen is packed. At two tables, diners gobble up hearty plates of pumpkin chili and mashed potatoes, pork tenderloin and brussels sprouts, as Porter’s daughters Campbell, 6, and Adelaide, 3, dart about picking up dishes and taking dessert orders.
The diners talk about Christmas lights, art — anything that comes to mind, really. Some of the diners know each other fairly well. But many do not. And that was Porter’s hope.
For four nights this December, Porter invited friends, acquaintances and total strangers from various facets of her life over for a meal at what she called “The Christmas Restaurant.” The only price of admission was a wrapped gift to be donated to the women and children spending Christmas at the Rose Brooks Center, and a willingness to sit down across from people you might not interact with in your normal, day-to-day life.
“We tried to get people from all walks of all, and all different diversities,” Porter said.
The idea for the Christmas Restaurant came when a visiting lecturer at Porter’s church, Saint Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church in Mission, challenged the congregation to take up social projects.
“Campbell and Adelaide and I started thinking, how can we get different groups of people together that normally wouldn’t sit down to eat together?” Porter said. “And they’re little creative children, so this is what they came up with.”
Porter says she and her girls served nearly 100 people at The Christmas Restaurant. People signed up for one of the four seatings, and each night ended up having a bit of a different feel, she said. One night found the room filled with people from all over the world. Another night saw the tables filled with a variety of designers and business associates.
On Thursday, Lloyd Kirk, a retired neighbor, sat near Sara Teasley, a former art school classmate, and chatted with their fellow diners about schools and kids.
“It was amazing,” said Teasley of the meal. “And I knew it would be. Kelly’s a fabulous cook. So that’s reason enough to come.”
Porter said she’ll be putting on the “Christmas Restaurant” again next year.
“Probably half the people who came wanted to volunteer,” she said. “So I’m going to put them to work next year.”