Many of the folks here on the network know Chef Alfredo. He is a wonderful person and a close family friend.For the past few years he has called "Bistro To Go" his headquarters while contuning to do private catering, special events and setting up his stand on occasion at CITIPARKS Farmers Markets. You may or may not know that for a time Alfredo tried to run his business, Buckingham's Catering and Restaurant in the former Zebra Room location on Dallas Avenue in Homewood after relocating from Swissvale.
We had many discussions about trying to revive the space as a Jazz spot, but it did not materialize as we would have hoped for.
The following is the story from the Tribune Review surrounding the terrible accident in which he was involved in.
It is my intention to also pass the hat for him at well at my Jazz Fan Appreciation Event next Saturday, June 20 at April's On The Avenue.
I have spoken with Rev. Tim Smith and the Fundraiser at Bistro To Go is scheduled for July 19. He is the organizer.
North Side chef Alfredo Russell has spent most of his 69 years helping others.
Now, he needs help.
Russell was merging onto the North Shore ramp from Interstate 376 to cross the Fort Duquesne Bridge on May 17 when his van collided with a car. The van careened into a wall and flipped.
"I don't remember much after that," said Russell, who makes the gumbo, jambalaya and other New Orleans-themed dishes at Bistro To Go on East Ohio Street. "I do remember looking down at my feet and thinking they must both be broken because they wouldn't move."
Russell underwent six surgeries at UPMC Mercy to repair his crushed hips, pelvis, ankles, and shoulder. He faces additional surgeries, and doctors cannot tell him when they'll allow him to return home, he said.
His "family" at Bistro is organizing an all-day benefit and dinner July 19 to help with medical costs and other bills, said Bistro owner Nikki Heckman.
"He's like a father to us," Heckman said. "Everyone knows and loves Chef Alfredo. He's an amazing person and we're just so upset this has happened to him."
Russell makes the spicy Cajun and Creole dishes served at the eatery. Six other chefs also are responsible for the menu, which changes daily, and the catering and cooking classes offered there.
Russell cooked at the Houlihan's restaurant on Bourbon Street in New Orleans and owned Alfredo's Buckingham Cafe of Homewood in Pittsburgh, said his pastor at Keystone Church of Hazelwood, the Rev. Tim Smith.
"He is one of Pittsburgh's best kept secrets," Smith said. "He wanted to bring high-quality, fantastic food to the inner city."
Russell's wife, Catherine, died in 1991 and he has six grown children and six grandchildren. He volunteers his time to teach cooking classes at the church's Center of Life, has given food to festivals and other programs geared toward helping children and teens, and cooked meals for refugees from Hurricane Katrina who settled in Pittsburgh.
"He is the kindest, most gentle man," said Joe Grondziowski, Heckman's business partner. "We'll do whatever we can to help him."
Heckman said Russell hasn't complained about his situation -- or the pain he feels -- and talks about returning to the restaurant.
"We need him, because I'm over here making gumbo and what the heck do I know about gumbo?" Heckman said.
Russell said he's grateful to be alive.
"I'm trying to stay strong," he said. "You never know what life has in store for you. I've been driving forever and I've had a few bumps and bruises along the way, but nothing like this. But you just have to keep on moving forward."