DeLand Elks Lodge 1463 hosted a battle of the chefs April 11 to determine who could make the best kebab.
All the culinary artists are chefs for assisted-living communities, and the fun-filled event at the Elks’ new location on South Alabama Avenue was staged to raise funds for the Multiple Sclerosis Foundation.
The founder of the event is Marjorie Marcus of Senior Helpers in DeLand, who also brought a team of volunteers from her professionals group, Community Outreach and Professional Education (COPE). She was assisted by Tammy Horn of Haven, a hospice organization serving families in 18 Florida counties since 1979.
Seven chefs battled for the 2019 trophy. Woodland Towers in DeLand came out on top.
The banquet room of the Elks Lodge looked formal, with aqua blue circular tables. Each place was set with a fork, an information packet, and take-home souvenirs.
Chefs arrived with their kebabs prepped and ready for service, while guests paid their donations at the door and took their seats.
Horn welcomed the chefs and guests, and passed the torch to Kasey Minnis to explain the mission of the Multiple Sclerosis Foundation.
“The mission of the Multiple Sclerosis Foundation is to provide programs and support services to those persons affected by MS, that help them maintain their health, safety, self-sufficiency, and personal well-being,” Minnis said.
She noted the organization also works to help people learn about multiple sclerosis and to promote fundraising to help those who are affected by it.
Multiple sclerosis attacks the insulating covers of nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord, resulting in physical and sometimes mental problems, sometimes with a sudden onset.
“A man with MS went blind while driving down the road and had to somehow pull over until someone was willing to help him,” Minnis told us.
Every guest was a judge. Darryl Hayes and this writer were selected to serve as tiebreaking judges, if needed.
Marcus and the COPE team plated the kebabs. The anonymous entries were identified only by decorative picks that allowed for blind tasting and judging.
Kebabs are ubiquitous around the world in many different forms, but they generally consist of cooked meats, vegetables and fruits on a skewer.
The fun part for me, as a foodie, was that we were given no explanation as we tried each kebab, and we had to decipher what we were eating. A vibrant display of different textures, meats, vegetables, fruits, and even sauces was in front of us. Our judging sheets listed only the different kebab labels: beach sandals, paintbrushes, a bunny and clover, to name a few. We were tasked with selecting our first-, second- and third-place winners.
My favorite was the hibiscus-flower kebab, consisting of battered and fried lobster and other seafood delicacies with a house-made cocktail sauce and hibiscus flowers, of course.
My choice for second place featured an olive stuffed with a slice of jalapeño, a bacon-wrapped scallop, a beef-wrapped mushroom stuffed with cheese, and onion. Third place, in my view, offered a piece of chicken, battered and fried, with some sort of blueberry compote that tasted like yummy French toast.
The votes were tallied, and Horn announced the winners, with third place going to Executive Chef Katherine Harris-Pegues of the Atria community in Orange City. Her aloe-plant kebab combined aloe with pineapple, shrimp, bell pepper, jerk chicken and mango.
Second place went to my favorite, created by Chef Rashad Bouie of Riviera Senior Living in Holly Hill, with that great combination of lobster, other seafood, and cocktail sauce.
First place went to my second favorite, created by Executive Chef John Davis of Woodland Towers of DeLand, with the stuffed olive and meat-wrapped mushroom.
This annual fun, charitable food event showcases the talents of chefs in the community who feed our elders in assisted-living facilities, where food is often important to the residents.
“You get care and a lifestyle,” said Tom Mondloch of Oasis Senior Advisors, one of the sponsors of the event.