Over the weekend, chef Jacob Bickelhaupt, known for 42 Grams — a two-Michelin-starred restaurant that was the subject of a documentary, also called 42 Grams — held two pop-up dinners at the site of Stone Flower, his upcoming fine dining restaurant in Bucktown. Bickelhaupt stated that the proceeds would be donated to a domestic violence charity, Between Friends, a nonprofit that helps victims of domestic violence access counselors and support services; the organization states that it was not involved in the planning of the event. Twelve seats, with tickets costing $250 apiece, were available for each dinner, and the early session sold out.
Over the last two years, Between Friends provided support services to Bickelhaupt’s ex-wife, Alexa Welsh, providing her with counselors and connecting her with other victims of violence. She’s built on that support to move to California to sell tacos on the beach.
Bickelhaupt and Welsh, who ran 42 Grams together, closed the restaurant in 2017 after Bickelhaupt attacked Welsh with a bottle during an argument; the resulting head injury required two staples. Bickelhaupt pled guilty to battery and was sentenced to conditional discharge. He was initially charged with domestic battery, but the charge was changed to battery.
Between Friends wasn’t involved in the planning of the event, and the nonprofit only became aware of the fundraiser through social media posts from Bickelhaupt and an associate of his, Steve Infante, in which the group was tagged. Some in Chicago’s culinary community were shocked by the post, with one anonymous chef left dismayed that Bickelhaupt could portray himself as a victim and receive encouragement for exorcising his demons.
Representatives for Between Friends said that Bickelhaupt never approached the group to use its name in connection with the “charity dinners.” In a statement to Eater, a representative of Between Friends said, “It is important to note that public acts of charity cannot be the sole or even primary form of restitution or be perceived as taking accountability”:
We have just recently learned about this event at which funds were raised for Between Friends in connection to Jake Bickelhaupt, who pled guilty in July 2017 to battery against his ex-wife. We appreciate the diners who donated in support of our efforts to end domestic violence. We would like to clarify that we were not involved in organizing the event held at Stone Flower Restaurant on March 23, nor have we been approached by the One Flow Foundation or any other of the event’s organizers. We encourage efforts by those who have done harm to take responsibility for their actions, be accountable, examine their behavior and, where appropriate, make amends, but it is important to note that public acts of charity cannot be the sole or even primary form of restitution or be perceived as taking accountability.
In an Instagram post the day after the event, Bickelhaupt bragged that the dinners raised $2,000 for the organization, and that he was going to hold more fundraisers. The same post tagged a group called One Flow Foundation, which was founded this year by Bickelhaupt. The organization’s website described it as “a nonprofit that supports the culinary industry by raising awareness of how substance abuse and emotional health [affects] chefs in the kitchen.” One Flow was mentioned in the post in this context: Bickelhaupt thanked Stone Flower — his upcoming restaurant — for hosting his own foundation’s charity event.
As of publishing time, a rep for Between Friends — the group that helped Bickelhaupt’s ex-wife cope with the injuries he inflicted — said the group hadn’t received a donation from Bickelhaupt or anyone connected with One Flow Foundation, although it’s not uncommon for it to take a week or so for donations to show up when collected from parties or events like pop-up dinners. Bickelhaupt told Eater he’s waiting for credit card transactions to be processed before sending the funds. He added he’ll make another social media post to confirm the exact amount.
Bickelhaupt, via an email to Eater, wrote that he picked Between Friends because it’s a “charity that supports breaking the cycle of domestic violence and abuse is because I’ve always been against it and the decision I made on June 6, 2017 was wrong.” Besides raising money for charity, Bickelhaupt wrote that he held the dinners to help menu development. Over on a Facebook event page, the dinner is described as an “exclusive R&D dinner.” Since then, he’s revealed plans to open a restaurant in Bucktown called Stone Flower.
Properly operating nonprofits, like Between Friends, file annual 990 forms with the IRS. Despite a lack of records on popular websites that verify charities, Bickelhaupt wrote that One Flow Foundation is registered. As it is a new foundation, however, its registration may not immediately appear online.
Stone Flower was announced in December to be taking over the space at 1952 N. Damen Avenue. It features a 12-seat chef’s counter with wine pairings for $300 per person, with service included. It should open on May 2, according to Bickelhaupt. He has said he expects Michelin to award his restaurant multiple stars.