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Local chefs compete in kitchen for Boys and Girls Club

Reported by: Tyler Hill
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Updated: 11/24/2013 11:53 pm
TUPELO, Miss. (WTVA) - The inaugural "Cooking Like the Stars" was held on Sunday at the Park Heights Restaurant in downtown Tupelo where local chefs battled it out to prepare a three-course meal from mystery ingredients.

The event called for four chefs, each with different cooking abilities. "I specialize in fish sticks, hotdogs and macaroni and cheese," said event chef Mary Margaret Gratz.

"My goal is to not burn down Park Heights," said event chef Mark Shelton. "If I can throw in some fire by Mary Margaret's station, that's fine too."

Based on the Food Network show, "Chopped," the chefs participating in the event didn't know what ingredients were available to them until the night started.

"You know, it's kinda scary," Shelton said. "I also think it kinda helps because you can't prepare for it, so you just gotta go in there and cook with whatever experiences you have. Hopefully, they'll pay off."

"They're not professional chefs," Boys and Girls Club Director of Marketing Evie Boyd explained. "However, they're among Tupelo's finest at-home cooks."

Like the television show, the chefs only had a certain amount of time to prepare the meals, but if that wasn't enough, organizers upped the ante by bringing in professional judges.

"I'm going to try to focus on the aspect of how the food is prepared and how it taste" said Itawamba Community College Chef Instructor Denise Backstrom. "I'm not going to get too specific about exact techniques. I'm not gonna be a teacher tonight," she joked.

Organizers said the even helps raise money for the Boys and Girls Club.

"This provides funding for the operation, to keep the doors open and to continue serving the club," said Chief Professional Officer Zell Long.

"It's just part of that whole Tupelo spirit," Gratz said about the positive turnout. "If somebody needs to raise something for one of our non-profits, then we're gonna take care of you."

Although there's technically not a prize for the winner, Long said it remains a fierce competition.

"There has been a lot of bragging going on and a lot of text messages among the chefs already," she joked.

Organizers said 100 percent of the proceeds from the event will help fund the club.

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