Garner Cleveland Record

Annual education fundraiser draws hundreds, raises tens of thousands

People gather at the Garner Educational Foundation’s Cooks for Books event on Thursday,
People gather at the Garner Educational Foundation’s Cooks for Books event on Thursday,

Fred Huebner bought a signed basketball worth $30 and paid $160 for it. He won it at the auction at the Garner Education Foundation’s Cooks for Books fundraiser Thursday night at Garner TV & Appliance.

But he was just one of many who bought items for more than the items were valued at.

Why? To give back to kids in need.

“We’ve always been here for the Cooks For Books event,” Huebner, the owner of the McDonald’s franchises in Garner. “It’s a good thing to give to.”

Every year the Garner Education Foundation puts on an event to raise money in the community to support local children in schools. Spring Zuidema, the organizer of this year’s Cooks for Books event, says the event typically draws hundreds of people from Garner and surrounding areas. This year was the fifth year for the event.

Restaurants set up a table and let the public taste their food. Afterward, the public votes based on different categories, which food is the best.

Professional chefs have a cook-off to see who serves the best dish. A trophy goes to each winner. All of the funds raised go to the Garner Education Foundation, which uses it for its literacy programs that help at-risk youth.

Zuidema, an English teacher at Garner Magnet High, said she knows what the money can do.

“This extra money helps with resources and materials for teachers and students,” she said. “Garner is unique in that people are saying, we appreciate what Wake County Public School System is doing, but we want to do more for our Garner schools.”

Before the event started, Zuidema said they had already raised a little more than $10,000. Those funds come primarily from corporate sponsors and ticket sales.

The competition

Two restaurants and one catering business competed in the live kitchen competition judged by area chefs. More than 10 others entered their dishes in a variety of “Best of the Best” categories.

MoonRunner’s Saloon, Tripp’s, and Alaksha’s Custom Catering all faced off in the live cooking competition with their own dishes.

Guy Wavra, co-owner of MoonRunner’s, made shepard’s pie with apple pie moonshine demiglaze. Will Faircloth, general manager of Tripp’s, cooked a bacon wrapped scallop over goat cheese rissoto with maple bourbon glaze. Alaksha Surti, the owner of the catering company and personal chef, prepared spiced koftas over saffron rice and topped with fresh herb and jalapenos crema.

As the judges made their way to each station, each cook moved as quickly as possible to cook and get the food out on their plate. They played close attention to the details in their dishes, as did the judges.

Surti ultimately took home the trophy for her winning dish.

“I was the underdog basically because the other two restaurants had competed, and I didn’t know what to expect,” Surti said. “But I knew my food was really good. And I’m really excited. I love to cook.”

But Surti said she does it to support the Garner Education Foundation.

“Having three kids myself – two at Rand Road Elementary and one at North Garner Middle School – my husband and I strongly believe in a good education for the future of our children,” Surti said. “In fact, my husband volunteers his time in the Garner Education Foundation’s SCOR program that helps children read with confidence.”

The night was a success. By the end of the night, the foundation had raised $15,000.

Zuidema said the foundation will give away $9,500 in eight scholarships to students with part of the money raised.