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Quincy non-profit hosts second year of top chef challenge

Posted by Jessica Bartlett  October 4, 2013 04:53 PM

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Quincy Community Action Program’s Best Chef Competition is returning for a second year, a fund-raising event that’s more important than ever given difficult federal funding, organizers said.

Last year, the event drew 350 guests and raised approximately $100,000 for the local non-profit, dedicated to helping low-income families with everything from workforce development, early education, energy assistance, and food and housing programs.

For this year's event, taking place next Thursday, organizers have equally high hopes.

“[The fund-raiser] was already critical for us to continue delivering some of our core services, delivering food, providing emergency food and providing our housing services, our adult education services, we use it for a range of services that we provide in the agency. We have a significant gap going into the year. We’re hoping we will have great success,” said QCAP President Beth Ann Strollo.

Strollo said an added burden of stalled federal funding due to government shutdown has only made matters more difficult.

Add to the fact that sequestration cut the organization’s HeadStart program by five percent, and negotiations are ongoing at the federal level to make cuts to the Supplemental Nutiriton Assistance Program, which would further put a burden on the local agency.

“We know that we need to step up our fund-raising efforts,” said Susan Harrington, director of development and marketing.

As last year, the program has invited several local chefs to compete in a challenge in the style of the popular television show “Chopped”, giving each chef a portable cooking station and telling them their cooking ingredients only once the competition begins that night.

Chefs will have 45 minutes to create their dish, and will be judged on taste, originality, and plating.

Participating chefs include Chef Robert Caparella of La Scala Restaurant in Randolph; Chef Joel Hathaway of the Neighborhood Club of Quincy; Chef David Todisco of the Tavern at Quarry Hills/Granite Links; Chef Paul Wahlberg of Alma Nove and Wahlburgers in Hingham; and Quincy School Committee member Barbara Isola, host of QATV’s "Into the Frying Pan."

Chefs will be assisted by a sours chefs including Paul F. Connors, Jr., member of the Norfolk County Retirement Board and former selectman and retired town administrator from the town of Randolph; Emily Lebo, Quincy School Committee; Patrick McDermott, Register of Probate/Clerk Magistrate at Norfolk County Probate & Family Court; Quincy City Council President Michael E. McFarland; and longtime Quincy resident and community action activist Archie Wahlberg.

To make the competition even tougher, chefs will have to use food available from QCAP’s Emergency Food Center to complete the challenge.

At the event’s conclusion, recipes will be shared with Food Center clients and the public.

For Wahlberg, last year’s Top Chef winner, it was important to participate again.

“It’s for such a great cause and the fact that the items they are giving us are available through their food pantry is important. It’s important people are aware,’ Wahlberg said.

As for defending his championship, Wahlberg laughed, saying it would be a win if he didn’t set the place on fire.

“I think it was a mistake last year and I’m a little scared this year,” he said with a chuckle. “I think there are a lot of great restaurants out there, a lot of great chefs. It’s dumb luck more than anything.”

Wahlberg said he planned to stick to what he knew and focus on the time during the experience, and keep the focus on the fun.

Harrington said the organization was pleased so many chefs decided to participate again.

“[These chefs] have been a strong local presence for many years and we’re entirely grateful they have wanted to participate in this and help us raise funds for our organization,” Harrington said.

The event will take place at 6 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 10 at Granite Links Golf Club in Quincy. Tickets are $100 per person and $175 per couple.

For more information or for tickers, click here.

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