A resident of Denver, Noel was a true citizen of the world. Born in Ireland in 1949, he went to work at London's famed Savoy Hotel, achieving the rank of sous chef by age 23, before moving to California in the 1970's. In 1986 he moved to Denver and opened Strings, a bistro in Denver's Capitol Hill neighborhood that quickly became a community institution, hosting local celebrities, politicians, community and charity events and romantic date-nights.
While his professional biography will be defined by his extraordinary culinary talents, Noel's legacy will forever be based on the impact his philanthropic efforts had in Denver and across the world.
While in California he met Pat Miller, the noted restaurant critic known as the ``Gabby Gourmet,'' and the two developed a lifelong friendship. Together, they started ``Taste of the Nation,'' a nation-wide fundraiser that by 2010 had raised almost $80 million to fight hunger and poverty across the United States.
With his wife Tammy, Noel founded The Cunningham Foundation, which included Quarters for Kids, to help educate children about local hunger and homelessness, and 4 Quarters for Kids, a project he named in reference to the four quarters it takes per day to provide an Ethiopian child with breakfast, lunch, a school uniform, and a teacher and books. Firm in his belief that philanthropy could strengthen a local community while enriching the lives of those across the globe, Noel targeted 4 Quarters primarily to local children, who held carwashes, concerts, pledge drives, and silent auctions to help create a better future for their Ethiopian peers.
Noel was active with the local Volunteers of America, and served on the board of the national nonprofit Share Our Strength. On weekday afternoons, it was not uncommon to drive by Strings and see Noel serving meals to the homeless in between the persistent lunch and dinner rushes. He was committed to building a better community, both locally and globally, and was not afraid to enlist the help of others to achieve his goals; he worked with local hospitals to provide life-saving treatments for Ethiopian children, and local businesses to ship supplies and other necessities to Africa. He founded ``A Dinner of Unconditional Love''--a charity dinner to raise funds for Dr. Rick Hodes, an American Doctor living in Ethiopia whose mission is to help heal the poor--and had planned to expand the program across the country so that he could raise the $10 million Hodes needs to build his own hospital in Ethiopia.
Noel Cunningham spent each and every day making a difference in the lives of those around him.