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The chefs of Men Who Cook posing last year with celebrity cook Ric Orlando at the Guilford Yacht Club. (Photo courtesy of Dawn Jackson )
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For 28 years, the Women & Family Life Center (WFLC) has provided advocacy, practical assistance, affordable housing, financial consulting, and many other services to women from East Haven to East Lyme. For 25 of those years, men from the community have gotten together to offer their support in a very particular, very wholesome way:
Men Who Cook, WFLC’s largest fundraiser, according to Development Director Dawn Jackson, will celebrate a quarter century of bringing people together for hearty, home-cooked meals on Sunday, Oct. 20 at the Guilford Yacht Club, offering the best selections of both amateur and professional chefs in the area in support of WFLC’s many programs.
The event has gotten so big, in fact, that Jackson said they will need to expand to a larger venue. Jackson expressed her gratitude to the yacht club, which she said has been “an amazing host,” but with limited tickets at the yacht club selling out at a rapid pace, it was time to expand.
Starting next year, Men Who Cook will move to The Woodwinds, a wedding venue and banquet hall in Branford, Jackson said. It will offer WFLC more space, and more opportunities to grow the event’s reach
“We do have some ideas for incorporating chefs in the community, and food enthusiasts. I think the Connecticut shoreline has some wonderful purveyors of food that we can bring into the fold...of this event,” Jackson said.
Seeing how the WFLC helps women in towns all up and down the shoreline, Jackson said she hoped the move will allow Men Who Cook to include more people from outside of the immediate Guilford area.
This year’s event will continue to offer the kind of pageantry, and of course delicious food, that attendees have come to expect.
Celebrity chef Ric Orlando, who has competed on TV shows such as Chopped and I Beat Bobby Flay will be this year’s guest judge and emcee.
“The fame of this event [is] people coming together, enjoying eating together and cooking together, and in turn supporting our organization,” Jackson said.
Originally held in the Guilford Community Center, the event since outgrew that venue, hosting more than 175 people this year with more than 25 cooks in the kitchen, according to Jackson. Each chef gets to choose his own dish, with some providing hors d’oeuvres and others making entrées, and are also in charge of serving their food, she said.
First Selectman Matt Hoey, who said he is in his third year of cooking for the event, will be providing a Greek chicken dish this year. He described the experience as an especially lighthearted social opportunity, with good-natured ribbing and plenty of chances to taste and learn about new and delicious foods.
“It’s wonderful. You get a chance to see a lot of folks—you get teased a little bit. Most folks are very appreciative that you took the time and effort and the expense,” said Hoey.
Other local chefs include State Senator Christine Cohen’s husband, Rob Cohen, and State Representative Sean Scanlon (D-98).
Jackson said that while every cook has a different level of experience or professional involvement in the food industry, what they all have in common is an appreciation of the kind of work WFLC does for the community.
“They are people that have been impacted,” said Jackson.
Coming from all different backgrounds and levels of cooking experience, Hoey said that while there might be jokes and teasing about other chef’s food, what everyone understands is why they are all there.
“The reality is, everybody appreciates everybody else stepping up to the plate for this wonderful fundraiser,” Hoey said.
The 25th annual Men Who Cook fundraiser for the Women & Family Life Center runs from 5 to 8:30 p.m. at the Guilford Yacht Club, 379 New Whitfield Street. Tickets start at $300. For tickets and information, visit womenandfamilylife.org/men-who-cook.
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