By Caleb Vierkant
What originally started as a small fundraiser has become a night of food and fun that brings the entire community together. This February marks the 10th anniversary of 50 Men Who Can Cook, a charity event hosted by the College Station ISD Education Foundation.
“One of our board members, about 10 years ago, saw this done in a different state,” says Teresa Benden, director of the CSISD Education Foundation for seven years. “My predecessor, Anne Ganter, and some board members came up with the idea [based on that event].”
The event has shown tremendous growth over the years. Originally, 50 Men Who Can Cook was a relatively intimate wine pairing event. The first event had about 300 people in attendance and 50 chefs. This year, however, 2,000 people are expected to attend and 70 chef booths will be presenting their meals.
As the name suggests, the chefs are all male. They are also local business owners and members of the community. Cooking for this event is typically invite-only, says Benden, but some people step forward to volunteer. Some of the chefs this year will be College Station Police Chief Scott McCollum, CSISD Superintendent Dr. Clark Ealy, Tom Turbiville of radio station WTAW, and former sports journalist for The Eagle Larry Bowen.
“It’s a great organization,” says Chief McCollum, who has been a participating chef for the past five years. “They do a lot for our kiddos, so we’re happy to help out. It’s always a fun night, a really great event.”
“When the chefs sign up they choose their recipe; anything they want,” says Benden. “What we ask them to do is bring 800 or more bite-sized samples of whatever they cook. It could be anything from a dessert, to an entrée, to an appetizer.”
People attending the event will be encouraged to sample as much as they can, and to vote on their favorites.
Wine, beer, and margaritas will also be available and included in the ticket price. There will also be a photobooth, $20 grab bags, a silent auction, and a raffle. One of the big items up for grabs at the raffle is a diamond double halo pendant donated by David Gardner’s Jewelers, valued at $5,000.
“Last year we netted $205,000,” says Benden. “We would like to raise $225,000 this year.”
All proceeds raised by 50 Men Who Can Cook will be divided among several programs hosted by the CSISD Education Foundation, such as innovative teaching grants, student scholarships, the Success 24/7 instructional website, and a senior hall of fame banquet.
This event is considered private, and tickets will not be available at the door the night of the event. Those wishing to go must purchase their tickets ahead of time. Tickets are $60 per person and are all-inclusive. VIP tickets are also available to special sponsors of the event, allowing them early access. While everybody is welcome, 50 Men Who Can Cook is considered an adults-only event. Held on Feb. 3 at the Brazos County Expo, doors open at 6:30pm, but VIPs will be able to get in a half-hour early. Tickets are available at givetokids.csisd.org or by texting 50Men to 41444. Board members and celebrity chefs will also have tickets available to sell.