Interact club cooks up a tasty fundraiser
Rachele Summerville, of the Rotary Club of Bay Area Sunrise, serves as a sous-chef during the Iron Chef competition. Photo courtesy of Bay Area Sunrise Rotary Club
Interactors in Oregon, USA, have found a tasty way to raise money for local and international service projects.
With the help of the sponsor Rotary Club of Bay Area Sunrise (Coos Bay-North Bend-Charleston), the Interactors at North Bend High School recently held their third annual Iron Chef competition, raising thousands of dollars to send their club president to Spain on a short-term Rotary Youth Exchange, support Shoes for Africa, and renovate a school study lounge.
Lynda Kristoffersen, liaison to the club and the district's Interact chair, came up with the idea after reading an article in the New York Times about similar contests held at dinner parties. The club’s first try pitted a chef from the Oregon Coast Culinary Institute against a chef from a local restaurant in the basement of Kristoffersen's church.
“It was really low scale because if I was going to fall, I wanted to fall small," says Kristoffersen of the event, for which all 50 tickets sold out at $40 each. The next year, the competition moved to the culinary institute, allowing for an expanded schedule of events. It also sold out, with all100 tickets selling in 10 days.
"This year due to the economic times, we only sold 72 of our 100 tickets, but it was the best one ever," Kristoffersen says. "We instituted closed-circuit TV in all the rooms so if people were listening to the band or having a glass of wine or eating appetizers, they could still follow the competition."
For the contest, the two chefs create three entrees using two proteins the Interact club selects ahead of time, along with a bread, dessert, and salad. A secret ingredient -- this year’s was Greek yogurt -- is revealed right before the competition "to shake things up a bit," says Kristoffersen.
Interactors and Rotarians help in the kitchen as sous-chefs cutting, dicing, and chopping as needed. While the main chefs are at work, sous-chefs perform a series of mini-contests, or "quick fires," such as guessing the ingredients in a dish or racing to be the first to shuck and clean oysters for a sauce.
A panel of judges scores the entrees to determine the year's Iron Chef. The audience is assured plenty of samples.
"There's tons of food," Kristoffersen says. "It's a full meal plus some."
The event serves as the main fundraiser for the Interact club. This year, in addition to revamping the school lounge, the club is giving some of the money to Shoes for Africa, the Interact district's international project. Half the money raised each year is used to send the club president-elect on a Youth Exchange.
"Our president-elect will go to Spain for 30 days and then the person she stays with will come here to her house and stay 30 days," says Kristoffersen. "It is intended to build awareness of other people's cultures and beliefs and to learn diversity and tolerance and spread that."
“It's a great way to do international goodwill, friendship, understanding, and peace," says Tashina Stillmaker, the Interact club's president-elect. "I am looking forward to coming back with a good service project for our club."
Kristoffersen says the event would be easy to replicate. "Even if you do not have a culinary school in your area, you can tweak it to work," she says. "You can have an outdoor competition where they have to barbecue everything. There are so many ways you can do it."
She says clubs can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org
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