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Community chef mystery challenge cooks up funds for the HUB

The community came out in full support of the chef challenge, cooking up funds for the HUB Child and Family Centre in Picton.

Story and photos by Sharon Harrison
Community ‘chefs’ cooked up funds, laughs and some interesting dishes during a creative competition, Saturday.

The HUB Child and Family Centre partnered with The CAPE (Culinary Arts Prince Edward) on the former Picton Legion property to host the first cooking competition of its kind as a fundraiser for an expansion project at the HUB.

Six teams from local businesses battled it out to produce a dish from a box of ingredients, kept secret until just moments before the clock began running. Teams had just 45 minutes to prepare an entrée using all of the ingredients in the mystery box.

The culinary contest featured Scotiabank Picton versus Scotiabank Wellington; TD Canada Trust Picton versus CIBC Picton and Wellington Home Hardware versus Ainsworth Funeral Home.

“Double cricket powder!” called out emcee Mike Farrell, announcing a mystery box content for the second round. “I never thought I’d be saying that!”

The TD team created butternut squash soup with saffron and lentils, sweet potato, cinnamon and nutmeg; roasted bell pepper stuffed with mushrooms, rice, onion, cheese and tomato and an arugula salad with carrot, radish, rapini with salad dressing.

CIBC challenged it with a lentil bowl, saffron, tomato soup/sauce with grilled vegetables and cricket powder topped with lemon dressed rapini leaves and zucchini flowers stuffed, with more cricket powder.

TD took the round.

Judges Davide Del Brocco, Ramona Roblin and Michael Potters

While the judges were looking for taste and visual appearance with each dish, it was the youngest judge, six-year-old Ramona Roblin, who stole the show. While just as serious as her fellow judges – chefs Michael Potters and Davide Del Brocco – Ramona’s insightful and inspirational comments about each dish and her delightful words of wisdom had the crowd in stitches of laughter several times during the afternoon.

“Everybody tried their best, and it counts if you try. You are both winners,” she announced.

During the cook-off, some of the rooms at The CAPE were open for viewing and also contained a number of silent auction items. There was also a 50/50 draw.

In a battle of the champions, the third and final round was between Wellington Home Hardware and Ainsworth Funeral Home.

The Home Hardware team was led by Evan Nash, with Dylan Tilston, Brad Osbourne and Rachel Reid. Tod Lavender, Lesley Lavender, Wendy Lavender and Gary Dyke made up the Ainsworth Funeral Home team.

Nash noted his team needs to concentrate to take on the Ainsworth team.

“Basically, we are good with WD40 and mixing paint, so this is going to be a new experience for us,” he said.

“We are looking forward to a good, friendly competition with Evan and the Nash Home Hardware crew,” said Lavender, noting the children at the HUB would be the real winners.

As their mystery box was unveiled, Lavender and Nash each wagered a $100 bill to the cause.

While the team applauds, Tod Lavender hands over his $100 wager to Mike Farrell.

Their mystery box included chicken, mustard, baby kale, Asian pears, corn grits, ginger, apples and sweet and sour Mexican gherkins.

“Every single person in this audience is a winner,” said Judge Ramona.

“I love how all the people were working together and communicating. One team wasn’t better than the other, they were the same. One dish was bigger than the other, but it was okay. It had stuff I do like and had seen before, but know there is stuff very new to me, and I think it is very cool.”

Finally, the dishes were presented.

“So, what we put in ours at the end of the day was love, the main ingredient is love… You are going to find sweet, you are going to find savory,” said Nash of his team’s dish. “Nothing more needs to be said, because it will speak for itself,” added a confident Nash.

“It’s a very good sign when the chefs who are judging the competitions are eating ravenously,” noted emcee Farrell.

Chef Potters congratulated both teams and noted the round was difficult to judge.

“Both were really well done,” he said.

And Ramona gleefully announced Wellington Home Hardware as the champions.

The Wellington Home Hardware team was the winner of the PEC chef challenge, with team members (back row) Rachel Reid, Brad Osbourne, Dylan Tilston and Evan Nash posing with judges (front row) Davide Del Brocco, Ramona Roblin and Michael Potters.

Chef Potters complimented all the teams on the quality of the dishes.

“This was a great competition and everybody used the box ingredients and had a lot of fun putting them together,” he said. “Great, great job.”

“It was very hard for everybody, but consider everybody a winner, all the teams are winners because they tried their best and that’s all that counts,” added Ramona.

You guys really blew me away, said Chef Del Brocco. “We were talking about 45 minutes, which wasn’t a lot a time for me to make dinner at home for my kids, and they don’t eat fancy. These teams went above and beyond.”

The winner received a gift basket containing a selection of beer and wine, and gift certificates to Blumen Garden Bistro.

“We are all winners here,” added Farrell.

All the dishes were auctioned off at the end of the competition.

Susan Quaiff, the HUB’s executive director, was thrilled with the community response to the fundraiser.

“Prince Edward County always steps forward to help,” she said. “We’ve had the CAPE and TD Bank offer sponsorship, the cattlemen’s association donated all the meat today, it’s just been an amazing response – an may become an annual event.”

The HUB expects to raise between $5-10,000 from the event to go toward the final $300,000 needed for the HUB expansion.

“What we are trying to do is not to have to borrow a lot of money in the end and that’s what the community is helping with right now.”

She noted the HUB is always looking for fundraising ideas because childcare is not self-sustaining.

“Our whole premise at The HUB is about healthy food, healthy families, healthy eating and healthy beginnings.”

The HUB, located on McFarland Court in Picton, is planning a 3,220-square-foot expansion of their existing space. It will include a multi-purpose space and will enable them to offer more opportunities within the community, as well as bringing all staff back under one roof.

As a not-for-profit organization and a registered charity, they have served the children and families of Prince Edward County since 1989, by providing early learning and child care services to local families. Primarily serving children aged 0-12 years, their programs, activities, education and resources are intended to grow healthy families.

“This past winter, we retro-fitted the inside to offer more childcare spaces,” said Susan Quaiff, executive director of The HUB.

“Every year, we were finding we were running out of space at this time of year, so currently, we are running with about 60 children and we have enough space for 81, so we now have some room available there.”

The expansion will bring all of the main offices and the Early Years and Early On programs, which are parent and child, together back to the centre “And, we’ll have that continuous service – prenatally, right through to school age, because we also do school age childcare in the County, as well in schools.”

To donate to The HUB Child and Family Centre’s expansion project, visit thehubcentre.ca. Businesses and families are also encouraged to purchase a sponsorship ‘bubble’ for a Wall of Appreciation. With different levels, sponsorships begin at $100 (bronze), $200 (silver) and gold is $250.

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