There seem to be hundreds of culinary-themed charity events in Kansas City these days, all with their merits, terrific food, wine, craft beer and cocktails, and many with extremely interesting hooks. I’ve donated my time and wine to many charities and fundraisers through the years, but honestly, the requests for donations and pleas for attendance can get a bit overwhelming.
Every now and then, though, a charity happening comes along that grabs my eye and teases my palette. Such is the case with the Cook for Courage event set for Sunday, May 15, in Kansas City under the historic 12th Street Bridge. This is the third year of the event, which benefits the Child Protection Center, a group that fights against and promotes awareness of child abuse.
A news release sent to me about Cook for Courage got my attention for a couple of reasons. First, very good friends are actively involved in the area of child abuse, so I am acutely aware of the horrible, debilitating nature of the crime and the fact that many times, even in today’s environment of heightened awareness, child abuse is under-reported and under-prosecuted. That is clearly a debate for another time and another forum.
More to the nature of Chowtown, however, is the fact that a number of high-profile celebrity chefs and judges will be coming together under the 12th Street Bridge in a barbecue cook-off to see who can prepare the best smoked ribs.
Now, outdoor cook-offs, especially with relation to barbecue events, are nothing new. But having chefs with the pedigree of Bluestem and Rye’s Colby Garrelts, Laura Norris of Cucina della Ragazza, famed meat maven Alex Pope of Cleaver & Cork and Local Pig, Dan Swinney of Lidia’s, and John Smith, whose new restaurant will open later this year, gather to smoke ribs under a bridge is a bit out of the ordinary.
I reached out to Garrelts for thoughts on the cook-off. “I really enjoy this event. Why we participate really depends on what the cause is and how we feel about certain organizations. It helps if we know people involved with the causes, too,” Garrelts shared. As for the challenges of cooking outside with limited resources for a large group of people, Garrelts says it comes down to preparation.
“We actually cook the ribs for the public the day before and then heat them up. That allows us to get them perfect for the day of the event. Only the judges’ ribs are cooked on-site. We have really gotten into competition barbecue in the last few years, so we really enjoy this type of event. And the bridge is really fun!” Garrelts said.
For Lisa Mizell, the CEO of Child Protection Center, having chefs like Garrelts and the others devote their efforts to the event is gratifying on many levels.
“The time and talent the chefs and judges dedicate to making this event a success is one of CPC’s most valuable assets,” she said. “We are so proud of this event and the caliber of professionals who work so hard to help us make everything come together. This is a great party, and everyone has so much fun — this is in large part thanks to the efforts of the chefs and judges.”
In case you’re wondering, and I certainly was, Mizell says CPC provides “forensic interviews and short-term therapeutic intervention for children who have been physical or sexually abused or witnessed a violent act.” The nonprofit organization sees about 800 children a year in Jackson and Cass counties.
There can be no doubt that Cook for Courage will raise money for a worthy cause.
Back to the cook-off, where, along with the chefs, the judging panel also provides a roster of notable names, including Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith; Tanner and Jade Tolbert from “Bachelor in Paradise,” Frank White, county executive and former player and coach for the Kansas City Royals; Miss Missouri 2015 McKensie Garber, Kansas City Chiefs tight ends coach Tom Melvin, and Katie Van Luchene and Kimberly Winter Stern of KSquared.
The VIP pre-party will feature appetizers by Bobby Stearns of Ophelia’s and will take place between 5 and 6 p.m. The main event will take place from 6 to 8:30 p.m. You can purchase patron tickets for the pre-party by visiting the CPC’s website at cpckc.org/cookforcourage.
Perhaps I’ll see you under the 12th Street Bridge!
Dave Eckert was the producer and host of “Culinary Travels With Dave Eckert,” which aired on PBS and Wealth TV for 12 seasons.