A battle was waging between local businesses and non-profits Saturday.
But instead of swords or armor, their weapons of choice were vegetables, ladles and large pots.
The Omega Project hosted its third annual Battle of the Chefs event last weekend at the McPherson Community Center. The event, which allows community members to enter in soups for a vote, aims to raise awareness and funds for the Omega Project, a program that assists men with addictions. The event raised more than $2,100.
“Every year we pick up new connections that help us,” David Case, Omega Project director, said. This could be financial donors, work opportunities in the community or mentors who rise to help. “The connections we have made have been huge”
About 200 people attend every year to taste the variety of soups. This year there were nine entries.
Contestants were split into two categories, which included four businesses and five non-profits. A panel of three judges determined the winners of these two categories, and recognition also was given via popular vote.
Winners in the non-profit and business categories were both first-time participants.
In the non-profit category, the judges selected a Santa Fe soup made by Kimberly Coon, wife of Pastor Martin Coon of King’s Hiway Baptist Church.
“I think it’s great to be able to do something like this, not just for people to get to know us in church, but to get to know the people who are putting it all together,” she said. “It kind of benefits everybody in the community.”
Kimberly said she only decided on the recipe two days before the event but was glad it was well-received and the competition was friendly. The couple has lived in town for a little more than a year.
“I love the McPherson as a community just for the fact that it's just so personable. These things show you just how personable it is,” she said. “It was like a big family coming together and sharing dinner.”
In the business category, the judges selected a cheeseburger soup made by Farmer’s Alliance.
“To us, it's not about the winning,” said Greg McCullough, vice president of human resources at Farmers Alliance Mutual Insurance Co. “It's about the event and the cause. The Omega House is such an important need in the community, and that's the important thing. That's why we're here. It's a lot of fun.”
The people’s choice award was given to a cheesy potato soup made by Penny and Erica Salzer from Countryside Covenant Church. Attendees cast their votes using beans collected at each booth. The mother and daughter duo said they chopped and diced 70 cups of ingredients for their recipe, including 48 cups of potatoes, eight celery and carrots, and four onions.
Page 2 of 2 - Mayor Tom Brown, who has been a soup judge ever year since the event’s beginning said soup is one of his favorite things to eat.
“I enjoy the variety and it's interesting to taste,” he said. “Tasting soup is like beauty, it's all in the beholder. There are no losers in this. They get the opportunity to present themselves, and it's fun competition.”
This was Anne Kirchner’s first time to be a judge. The McPherson resident and United Way director has years of cooking experience and said her favorite part of evaluating the soups was being able to tell the content of the soup by taste.
“I know what flavors I enjoy putting together, so it was fun to see what others were contributing to those soups,” she said, adding she based her decision on flavor combinations, presentation, and how the soup’s name tied with the taste.
Case said the event is always a good opportunity for the men in the program to interact with the community.
“The guys find when they’re out in the community they receive a level of respect,” he said. “It gives them a sense of legitimacy as human beings. Many of our men have struggled with relationships. So when they meet people who are positive, it really makes a difference in their lives. They feel like they can be successful.”
The thousands raised Saturday will help the project’s increasing demand for services. Case said they are looking for ways to open a new house to meet demand. The program recently received 10 requests in one week and many are on the waiting list.
“The need is there, it's unbelievable,” he said. “It's hard to say ‘no’ when someone's homeless and desperate. We do everything we can to make it work.”
To learn more about the Omega Project, visit www.livefreeministries.com.
Contact Jenae Pauls at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on Twitter @PaulsSentinel