OTTUMWA — What do goulash, cowboy caviar, double fudge brownies and fried mac and cheese balls all have in common? They were served at Divas who Dish on Saturday.

Anyone who went to Divas who Dish is guaranteed to tell you how busy it was. People came in with eager hearts, ready to try different foods from the “divas” and support the Ottumwa Symphony Orchestra.

In fact, many of the “divas” were first time participants.

Megan Bell was one of the many first timers. She prepared the double fudge brownies. In total it took her an hour and 45 minutes to prepare all of her brownies. “I enjoy easy recipes,” she said, “the less hassle, the better. It was the simple recipe that inspired me to prepare the brownies for this event.”

Bell had another inspiration in mind. In fact, it is what initially inspired her to cook and bake. “My mother was the one who taught me everything I know,” she said, “we always cooked and baked together. She deserves all the credit.”

Bell’s inspiration for her brownie recipe and reason for participating could not stop her excitement for Divas who Dish. “I just enjoyed my time here,” she said, “I enjoyed getting to try all the different foods. It’s been great.”

Tori Wiffhoft was also a first time “diva” She is a second year culinary student at Indian Hills Community College. She served a Margarita Semitaddeo with a citrus sponge cake garnished with a citrus peel. She wanted to make this after finding a recipe online. “I’m glad I did it, went through with it,” she said.

Wiffhoft said she wanted to make a dessert that was light and fluffy. For her, this was no easy task as it took half a day to make these desserts. The time and effort in making the dessert was worth pursuing, not only because Wiffhoft has been passionate about cooking for seven years, but because she’s able to see how her dishes can positively affect someone.

“I like being able to give to people,” she said, “I like to put smiles on people’s faces. I love seeing people’s reactions when they try my dishes.”

Other first time “divas” were Lorri Swarney and her daughter Lydia. Swarney and her daughter made “Cowboy Caviar,” a chip dip that consisted of corn, beans, and purple tortilla chips. Swarney has made this dish for 12 years and said she felt compelled to make it was it was something she thought to stick with. To Lydia, this event posed as a surprise. “I didn’t expect so many people to come,” she said, “I’m glad they came and I’m glad to be able to fundraise for the Ottumwa Symphony Orchestra. It was a fun time and a great way to branch out of the community.”

The event did not just consist of first time “divas.” It also consisted of some regulars, like Andrea Broccolino, Brenda Anderson and Mendy McAdams.

Broccolino made an appetizer that consisted of lamb on top of french bread, garnished with hollandaise sauce and baby asparagi. She worked alongside the head chef of Appanoose rapids. In total in took them a few hours to prepare the appetizers. “It was an excellent time,” she said, “I appreciate the crowd and them coming up and trying all the food.”

It was Anderson’s third year at Divas who Dish. She made an appetizer called “Juicy Lucy.” She said it is a Minnesota origin that consists of a small hamburger patty, lettuce, bacon, and tomato. Although preparing these dishes took approximately four hours, the thought process started much earlier. “I planned this a year in advance,” she said, “it took a lot of time and giving to make this all come together.”

Mendy McAdams, development director of Tenco said this was her second year participating in Divas who Dish. She made a Greek Chicken Cup. She said the preparation was long and involved lots of involvement.

“We tested out recipes in the office and people voted for their favorite,” she said, “whatever was voted upon was the recipe I went for.”

Although McAdams took up lots of time to prepare for Divas who Dish, she said it was worth the time. “ It was great to have such attendance,” she said, “especially since it’s going to support the fabulous symphony.”

At the end of the night, attendees voted for their favorite "diivas" in the appetizers, entrees, and dessert categories. Broccolino won best appetizer, Sandra Throne won best entree and Wiffhot won best dessert.

All three women were elated for their win, but Wiffhot jumped for joy. “I was so excited,'' she said, “this was unexpected. To celebrate I’m going out to eat.”


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