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Pastor's Pot Cook-Off to benefit food pantry


Above, a scene from last year's cookoff


By Suellen G. Reitz

Event publicity

     The old saying “There’s only room for one cook in the kitchen” has it all wrong this Saturday, May 5, at Jasper United Methodist Church where 15 cooks convene from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. for the 2nd Annual Pastor’s Pot Runneth Over Cooking Challenge. The event is a fundraiser for Pickens County CARES, the county food and financial assistance center.

     Each cook represents one of Pickens’ churches or church organization with the majority of the competitors being the church leader. The objective is to have the best dish, which they have previously prepared for all to taste and enjoy. Those with the highest votes will receive the coveted “pastor’s pot” to display proudly until next year’s competition.

     The Pastor’s Pot, co-chaired by CARES board members Joyce Bewey and Katharine J. Armentrout, was a huge success last year, raising over $8,000 with more than 300 guests attending. “We really didn’t know what to expect,” said Armentrout. “Joyce got the idea from the church she attended in Marietta. We were looking for a different way to raise funds that could involve the entire community. Not only did everyone who attended have a great time, it also made our community became closer,” she continued.

     With two more entries this year, CARES expects at least 350 attendees. Maybe even more if the folks who came last year bring their friends.

Monies raised will go towards the purchase of a much-needed refrigerated truck. Having this asset will allow the center the ability to receive even more donated food for those in need.

     CARES is very active in serving families within Pickens.  With unemployment rate at 9.3 percent in our county, the need is great. Currently, over 190 families are benefiting from the food pantry, and over $1,000 a week has been provided to families who either have no heat, electricity or are about to be evicted.

     Money from the Pastor’s Pot is raised two ways: ticket sales and paid votes. Each ticket buys you 8 “tastes” for $10. Be sure and come hungry, because the servings are big. Pre-event tickets are available at each church and all community bank locations. Tickets can also be purchased at Jasper UMC during the event.

Much like the Taste of Pickens, attendees choose their samplings from the 15 different entries. They then vote on their favorite dish by placing their ballot in the appropriate jug.   The pastor with the most votes receives the Tasters Choice Award…. a pot of honor.

     The second monetary source comes from the “pre-vote” jar.  “This is where most of the funds come from,” laughed Armentrout. “Everyone wants their pastor to win, so they vote often with each dollar counting as a single vote. I know of one lady who wrote a check for $50 this year. She really is counting on a win!” These pre-vote jars are in the churches and will also be on site for additional vote stuffing.  If you want your pastor to win, make sure to add you votes and dollars to the jug.

The competitors are really talking it up with their tongue-in-cheek good-natured rivalry.  Each claims to be a better cook…but only the voters can make that call. And with 15 cooks, you can be sure you’ll find a new favorite! Dishes include: BBQ, three varieties of chili, Brunswick stew, shrimp Creole, shrimp ettoufe, okra-corn-butter bean salad, appetizers, sandwiches, strawberry cream cake, cheese cake, baklava and cookies.

     Last year’s winner, Rev. George Yandell from The Episcopal Church Holy Family, won with a very spicy chili that was available in four levels of hot.  Yandell is changing it up a bit this year with his Cajun shrimp…. but it will still have the varieties of heat. “Rev. Yandell likes it hot,” explained Armentrout. “They say he carries hot sauce with him everywhere he goes.”

     The fun and excitement of the event will be heightened by the ongoing commentary of the master of ceremonies, Dave Garner from ETC. Garner will keep all abreast with short interviews and tallies of the current vote status. The mood will be fun and festive from start to finish. Additionally, Holy Family Minister of Music, John King Carter, will entertain all with his lively ragtime piano music.

     Come join the fun and festivities this Saturday, May 5, at the Jasper UMC Fellowship Hall from 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. and help out our neighbors with your tickets and votes. With 15 cooks to choose from, there’s no need for Mamma to be in the kitchen.

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