There may have been 25 men who could cook, but they were glad for the 350 people who could eat.
“Where else can you come out, cook what you want and people tell you how much they like it?” said Hans Wilz, one of the 25 volunteer chefs serving at the fundraising event Saturday.
So everybody liked the bagel crostini base topped with honey ginger chicken and an Asian-style orange slaw?
“Well, that’s what they’re saying to me, anyway!” said Wilz. “Ours is wonderful, really outside the box, but there’s even better here this year.”
He said he was proud of the 24 other guys because compared to last year, “people got a lot more creative.”
Someone who stereotyped an event called 25 Men Who Can Cook by predicting two dozen pots of chili would be in for a surprise, agreed Maggie Morrissey, who helped organize the event as a fundraiser for the Ottumwa Symphony.
“We don’t tell them what to make,” she said. “The presentations were really kicked up a notch this year, the showmanship. And I’m surprised at the number who can bake — really good desserts.”
For the 300-plus visitors who wandered Bridge View Center, it became clear pretty quickly that this wasn’t to be a diet-friendly event.
People listening to Cajun music in line at Dr. Kent Walker’s table joked that because his dessert — the bananas foster with ice cream — had bananas, it was health food. When Morrissey counted the votes, Walker’s specialty took People’s Choice.
Some dishes obviously were meant to be decadent, like the smoked pork from City Councilman Jeremy Weller, who topped each hunk of pork with a slice of bacon.
“We’re all here having fun,” said Larry Basar, a U.S. Navy veteran who used his travel experience to grill batch after batch of Philippine pork on a stick.
Other dishes included one batch of chili, as well as a hand-carved prime rib of beef, miniature cheesecakes, apples tarts, a cauliflower veloute, skewers of beef with au jus and beef bourguignon.
One of the professional judges in attendance, outgoing Ottumwa Country Club Chef Charlie Schiller, said he was impressed — and full.
“All the food was good, which I appreciated,” he said, “since it would be [unpleasant] eating 25 bad dishes.”
Winners, The Ottumwa Symphony’s 2013 25 Men Who Can Cook:
People’s Choice, Kent Walker.
Side Dish, Brad Little.
Dessert, Dar Fish.
Main Course, a tie between Steve Sprouse and Andy Hansen.