The Garner Education Foundation’s fourth annual Cooks for Books event last month generated $14,300 for its literacy programs and provided a variety of succulent dishes sampled by the nearly 300 guests.
Three restaurants competed in a live kitchen competition judged by area chefs while more than 20 others entered dishes in a variety of “Best of the Best” categories. A group of amateur cooks also vied for a dessert challenge.
And unlike last year when the GEF brought in participants from other areas, this year’s event was essentially an all-Garner culinary affair.
“We have great restaurants in Garner, and we wanted to highlight those,” GEF treasurer Amy Chalk. “We do try to put a different spin on it each year. It worked out very well this year.”
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The event, held at Garner TV and Appliance, offered local eateries a chance at exposure while raising money for a good cause. The revenue leading to $14,300 in profit – comparable to last year – came primarily from corporate sponsorships and ticket sales, Chalk said.
GEF board member Margaret Bingham said the earnings will largely help the SCOR program (Schools and Communities Organizing to Read, a buddy- program where volunteers help second graders with reading), which serves eight elementary schools. Dictionaries are provided for the children in that program. The money also goes toward book purchases for students and GEF’s annual storytelling festival.
Cooking up a storm
In a live-kitchen competition, Tripps “stole the evening” with a dish of lump crab cakes with risotto and a spicy remoulade, according to a press release from fundraiser chair Amy White. The dish took home both the popular guest vote as well as the nodd from a panel of judges including chefs from Wake Tech Culinary School and the North Carolina Chef’s Academy.
The dish beat out ribs from MoonRunners Saloon and mestique grilled chicken with grilled vegetables from Logan’s Roadhouse.
A newcomer to Garner, Alexander’s Restaurant, won the award in the “Best Entree in Garner” category with a Greek Lasagna called bastichio. Owner Nick Badway said the spices and different type of pasta gave the authentic Greek dish a unique flavor.
He opened the Mediteranian restaurant in Garner five months ago after moving from Pinehurst, and relished the chance to promote his new venture all while suppporting a good cause and the community.
“People don’t have to go to Raleigh, to downtown; they have a nice restaurant close by,” he said, adding that he freezes nothing and buys farmer’s market produce every morning.
Not new to Garner is Angie’s Restaurant; the Garner staple of country cooking won in two categories: Best Salad (broccoli salad) and Best Breakfast Item (ham biscuit).
“The broccoli salad started about two years ago. It was such a big hit, just really good with fresh broccoli and almonsds,” owner Angie Mikus said. “The country ham biscuit, you can’t really go wrong with a country ham biscuit.”
Angie said she was excited that two of her three entries won an award, though she was only able to stop in briefly as her restaurant hosted an event at the same time.
“I was glad we could be a part of something like that,” Mikus said.
Other winners chosen by popular vote included Alaksha’s Custom Catoring’s Tandori Chicken (Best Appetizer), Jersey Mike’s (Best Sub), Carolina BBQ (Best BBQ), Aversboro Restaurant (Best Wings), and Aversboro Coffee (Best Coffee).
Katie Jefferson Waters won the “Garner-It’s a SWEET Place to Be” Dessert Challenge with her Mystery Spice Cake. Waters is a literacy advocate for the New Hope Presbytery Literacy Awareness Campaign. A chocolate layer cake with cheesecake filling by Heather Warzon earned second and a coconut cake by Angela Kirch, who won last year’s competion, placed third.
The bake-off was judged by a team led by head judge Mike Pollard, owner and pastry chef for Cheesecakes Plus. Others included government and emergency leaders: Mayor Ronnie Williams, Chief Brandon Zuidema, EMS Community Outreach Coordinator Jeff Hammerstein and Bud Davenport of Garner Fire Department.