The competitors and the cuisine of the Chef’s Challenge may change every year, but the goal remains the same: raise funds for the WellSpring Center. Competitors, cooking in a certain style or theme, aim to produce the food that pleases the crowd the most and earn bragging rights and awards.
Past competitions included first responders competing to see who could make the best single pan dish and area churches battling it out to determine who had the best Mexican food.
This year’s competition pit three experienced barbecue businesses against one and other: Whiskey River BBQ out of Waverly, Holy Smoke Hog Roast from Martinsville, and The BBQ Maestros out of Indy.
Brisket and ribs were just some of smoked meats available for Chef’s Challenge attendees to try. Each of the three competitors brought their homemade sauces, allowing diners to customize their barbecue experience to their heart’s content. At the end of the line were chafing dishes full of baked beans and baked macaroni and cheese.
The winner of the challenge was determined by voting. At the tables, diners had red tickets, which they would place in the fish bowl corresponding to the competitor. The bowl with the most tickets was declared the people’s choice. The BBQ Maestros were the winners of this year’s Chef’s Challenge.
David Maurer, Community Engagement Director for the WellSpring Center, said the event was probably the organization’s biggest fundraising event. As for why they chose barbecue as a theme, Maurer said that area barbecue restaurants were receptive to the idea.
“I think we were able to find some interest with some of the barbecue providers here on the south side and in Morgan County, and so we really thought, ‘Well, let’s change it up a bit and make it happen,’” Maurer said.
He credited the popularity of the Chef’s Challenge to the fact that the community is very concerned about homelessness.
“Most people are one event away from having a major setback, and so the need is there, it’s very visible and on the forefront of everyone’s mind,” Maurer said.
Along with being a ticketed event, there was also a silent auction and a live auction. Companies and individuals also paid to sponsor tables at the event. Sponsor Modern Woodmen Fraternal Financial pledged to match proceeds from the evening up to $2,500.
Prior to the tables being dismissed for dinner, WellSpring Board President Jim Wisco welcomed those in attendance and thanked them for coming.
“Thank you all for giving of your time and coming this evening. I know that in and of itself is our most precious asset sometimes, being able to give your time,” Wisco said. “So we appreciate you all for being here tonight and spending some time with us to support Morgan County’s only homeless facility for families.”
Wisco said that the WellSpring provided 17,000 nights of shelter for individuals in need, which he called “a pretty staggering thing”
“I often say that I think that people view homelessness as a big city problem and it’s never their problem, and I think this room is indicative of a community that has heart and cares about everybody in our community,” Wisco said.
Also speaking was B. Craney, of Courtland Title & Escrow, the event’s Diamond Sponsor. Craney said that Courtland donates part of every closing to WellSpring Center. She also encouraged those in attendance to be give generously.
“You know in life you’ll experience low points and high points. I’d like to think that this point in your life we’re all at high points because we’re here tonight,” Craney said. “I hope that at this high point, you find it a generous time and give with an open heart. Thank you again for coming.”
The WellSpring Center is located at 301 W. Harrison St., Martinsville. For more information, visit wellspringcenter.org or call 765-342-6661