On July 1, Gertrude's will host DougStrong, a fundraising evening in support of Doug Wetzel, the restaurant's executive pastry chef, who suffered liver and kidney failure while competing in a May 30 triathlon in Kent County.
Wetzel, 32, was medevaced from Chestertown to the University of Maryland Shock Trauma, where he has since undergone a liver transplant. He remains at that hospital in stable condition, according to Peter Jackson, one of the organizers of DougStrong.
"I can't say enough about the guy," Jackson said. "He's got a huge heart and enthusiasm for life and the people around him. He's a pastry chef. He brings happiness to people. We want to return the love to him."
The DougStrong evening will include support and appearances from Baltimore chefs, some of whom who have collaborated with Wetzel on charitable culinary events. The visiting chefs include Bryan Voltaggio (Aggio, Family Meal Baltimore), Cyrus Keefer (13.5% Wine Bar), Zack Mills (Wit & Wisdom), Irena Stein (Alma Cocina Latina) and Tim Dyson (Dooby's).
"I got the list of all the restaurants coming here and I just started crying," said John Shields, the chef and co-owner of Gertrude's. "I've never seen an outpouring like this in all of the years I've been in the business. It's mind-boggling."
Shields refers to Wetzel, whose official title at Gertrude's is executive pastry chef, as the restaurant's "kitchen czar."
"He's like the heart and soul of the restaurant," Shields said. "He's one of the most determined individuals I've ever met. He's just go a zest for life. If anyone can come back from this, it's Doug."
Funds raised at the benefit will go toward Wetzel's medical expenses and other costs associated with his recovery, according to Jackson, who said that Wetzel has insurance coverage through his wife's employer.
Jackson wrote on the event's Facebook page Monday that "Doug is still in the midst of a long fight to recovery, but he continues to get better, become more responsive, and get more stable with every day."
Tickets to the July 1 event begin at $50, which includes admission to the event, auction, entertainment, beer, wine and food.