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Local men to show off cooking 'chops'

By Joel Hall

jhall@news-daily.com

For the second year, the Psi Alpha Omega (Clayton and Henry County) Graduate Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., and local men, will prove to the Southern Crescent that men can cook, too.

The sorority's Savor the Taste event will take place Saturday, Feb. 27, from 1 to 4 p.m., at Mundy's Mill High School, in Jonesboro. For around $10, residents will be able to sample food prepared by 40, or more, male chefs, all competing to be crowned "King of Chops" in four, different, food categories.

According to Psi Alpha Omega Chapter Corresponding Secretary and Savor the Taste Chairman Shana Rooks, 38 chefs have registered to cook for the event as of Tuesday -- double the number who participated last year. She said proceeds from the event will support the programs of the chapter such as: The Exquisite Pearls high school mentoring program for female Clayton and Henry county high school students; economic forums; health fairs; scholarships for high school seniors; and programs benefiting the Rainbow House children's shelter, and the SECURUS House shelter for battered women.

"It is a really inexpensive event," Rooks said. "I don't think that you are going to find too many of these events where you get to eat so much food for that much. All the money that we raise goes back into the community through our programs.

"I think what they [visitors] will see is how competitive these men are, and how well they can cook," she continued. "This year, we have people from the Henry County Fire Department participating, the Clayton County Sheriff's Department, as well as men from a number of churches and the fraternities. It's just a hodge-podge of people coming to this event, who normally wouldn't get a chance to socialize [together]."

Laura Scott-Gist, Psi Alpha Omega Chapter Historian and a member of the Savor the Taste committee, said participating chefs will prepare meats, side dishes, and desserts, as well as an added category this year -- soups. She said last year's "King of Chops" winning dishes included chicken and schrimp dressing, jerk chicken skewers, and rum cake.

"This year, we have somebody who is making red velvet cake, black-eyed pea salad, vegetarian lasagna, and short ribs," Scott-Gist said. "The participants who come to Savor the Taste will get to sample each chef's dish, and then they will be able to rate who they think is their favorite.

"Based on the votes they get, they [the chefs] will be awarded "King of Chops" in each category," she said. "About 100 people came out [last year], and we are expecting more this year."

Rufus Johnson, a regional principal for the Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice, as well as president of the Rho Sigma Lamda (Henry County) Graduate Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha, entered his "Munster Mac and Cheese" into last year's competition. Johnson, who learned how to cook from his grandmother during his final year of undergraduate study at Mercer University, said the competition allows other young men to learn the joys of cooking.

"I think it's a good idea, because, so often, we tend to stereotype people by gender roles," Johnson said. "It was really enlightening to the ladies to see so many men who could cook, volunteered to cook, and didn't mind sharing some of their recipes. It's a good thing to show men that they can take care of themselves by cooking ... It is also cost-effective. A lot of real men do cook, so it's a good thing."

According to Scott-Gist, men can register to enter the competition from now until Feb. 12 at www.psialphaomega.org/taste. Tickets, as well as vendor opportunities, are available via the web site.

Tickets for adults are $10 in advance and $12 on the day of the event. Tickets for children, between the ages of three and 10 years old, are $5. Admission for children under three years of age is free. Mundy's Mill High School is located at 9652 Fayetteville Road in Jonesboro.