Houston Restaurant Owner In Cancer Remission Is Fundraising For A Cure

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Just over a year ago, Levi Rollins, chef and owner of Urban Eats at 3414 Washington Avenue, thought his lack of energy and physical pain were due to the typical, exhausting demands of grueling restaurant shifts. His hip, bustling business is popular for its modern American and Southern fare, craft cocktails, specialty baked goods and coffees. In addition to the restaurant and bakery, which features a dog-friendly patio, the two-story business includes a gourmet market filled with locally and globally sourced pantry staples. These include oils and vinegars, pastas, sauces, crackers, chocolates, honey, salsas and more. Rollins supports local artists, too, by displaying a rotating gallery of items for purchase on the market’s walls.

A doctor visit revealed horrifying news: Rollins’ pain and fatigue were actually caused by multiple myeloma (MM), a type of blood cancer. 

“When I received my diagnosis from my hematologist, I was terrified,” Rollins said. He credits the love and support from his partner and husband, Eric, along with his mom, other family, friends and customers, as instrumental in allowing him to focus on treatment and recovery. 

Today, Rollins is free from detectable cancer cells and on a maintenance treatment regimen; there is no cure for MM, but he is able to regain normal function and return to his regular life. As part of his celebration and return to good health, Rollins is raising awareness and coordinating two fundraisers. He is also encouraging restaurant and bar workers to pay attention to troubling symptoms, and not assume they are par for the course of working in hospitality, a profession that historically involves long hours and physically demanding labor. He wants everyone to maintain routine visits to their primary care physician as part of prioritizing their health and wellbeing. Of course, this can be a challenge as hospitality workers are part of the nearly 50% in Texas who are uninsured.

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Proceeds from the “Love of Life” cocktail at Urban Eats will be donated to the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation from May 27 through June 30. Photo by Christina Martinez.

The first fundraiser takes place on Facebook and benefits the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation (MMRF). It runs Thursday, May 19 through June 30 with a goal of raising $5,000. The full amount raised will be donated directly to the foundation. Visit the fundraiser page to learn more and to donate.

The second is an in-house fundraiser from May 27 through June 30, which coincides with World Blood Cancer Day on May 28. It includes a special cocktail called Love of Life made with Bar Chefs Houston’s butterfly pea and hibiscus rich syrup, gin, vodka, housemade lemonade, fresh citrus and sparkling water. A mocktail variation is available as well. Proceeds from the $10 cocktail will go directly to MMRF.

“With awareness and your support, we will give back to MMRF [which is] funding new treatments, groundbreaking clinical trials, and data-driven research for a multiple myeloma cure,” Rollins said. “I hope you’ll join us to raise awareness and funds, however you can. And if you needed an excuse to spoil my staff with generous gratuities for their incredible support and hard work, I can’t think of a better time.”


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