Cecilia Dominick and her friends cooked all the food for the Haitian benefit at Serendipity restaurant. Standing from left: William Massillon, Robert Louisjeune, Fito Gourdet, Cecilia Dominick and Burthina Gourdet. (Photo/Henry Clay Webster)




Upwards of 200 guests swarmed the booths and bar at Historic Deutschtown’s Serendipity Bistro on Sunday, Jan. 31, to raise money for victims of the Haiti earthquake.

Unlike most recent benefits for Haiti, which raised funds for a charity like the Red Cross or Doctors Without Borders, Sunday night’s food fundraiser hit closer to home.

The night raised money for Cecilia Dominick, a Haitian immigrant who lives in the East End and lost many relatives in the recent earthquake on Jan.12. As far as she knows, Dominick said a total of nine cousins, many of whom lived in the capital Port-Au-Prince, are dead. Some of her aunts and uncles also perished in the earthquake.

“My brother, who has four kids, and my sister, who has four kids, are out on the street with no house,” Dominick said.

Joe Post, one of the partners in Serendipity, met Dominick over 10 years ago when they first worked together at Casbah, a Shadyside restaurant owned by the Big Burrito restaurant company. They became lifelong friends and Post traveled to Haiti twice in the ensuing years with Dominick.

“So when the earthquake happened she called and said, ‘I got to do something,’” Post said. “I called Cheryl [Primonato, another partner in Serendipity,] and said, ‘can we us this space.’”

Post helped to organize the event and donated liquor. Dominick, now a chef for another Big Burrito restaurant named Eleven, got Big Burrito to donate wine and funding for the event.

Tim O’Brien, of the Mexican War Streets, talks with Samantha Darroch, left, Whitney Kerr (current Miss Laurel Highlands representative for the Miss America Beauty Pageant), center, and Ashley Jacob, right. (Photo/Henry Clay Webster)

Dominick organized other Pittsburgh-area Haitians to cook an array of dishes. Except for alcohol, the event was donation only.

The buffet offered such traditional Haitian dishes as piplease (or cabbage with hot peppers and onions), plantain and acra (spicy vegetable fritters).

All the proceeds from the event were given to Dominick, so she can help her siblings and friends get back on their feet. Unfortunately, Dominick said, she can’t fly into Haiti until the authorities allow commercial flights into the country again. The U.S. government is currently in charge of the airport and is only allowing aid flights to land.

As soon as the no-fly restrictions end, Dominick will travel to Port-au-Prince and to Jacmel, a town in the south of Haiti where more of her relatives and friends live. Dominick said she plans to use the proceeds toward long-term benefits for her family and friends, such as building new housing.

Serendipity’s benefit also featured live music and a raffle. East End Brewery, Paragon and Weiss Provisions also donated food and beverages.