‘Men Who Cook’ event back after 2 year hiatus

Heather Vosburgh, Reporter

The Children’s Advocacy Center’s, CAC, ‘Men Who Cook’ event came back to Charleston for its 12th run after being on a hiatus for two years because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Men from the Charleston area gathered Saturday evening to help raise money for the Children’s Advocacy Center of East Central Illinois by cooking their favorite dish for the public to try and vote on at the end of the night.

The not-for-profit organization CAC is funded solely on grants, but Robyn Carr, the executive director of CAC. Carr said grants don’t pay for everything and that they run out very quickly with the amount of work the center does.

“When the grant money runs out, I’ll certainly rely on other funding sources, like fundraising money and other donations,” Carr said.

Because the Men Who Cook event is one of the Center’s means of gathering extra funding, there are a few ways the public can support the center, like generous donations, participating in the raffles and offering sponsorships in advance.

Carr said if someone cannot donate, they can always help get the word out about the center’s events by sharing their Facebook posts and telling their friends about them.

This event also served another purpose for the center, positive representation of men.

Men are often accused of abusive behavior and are statically more likely to abuse children physically and sexually, said Carr, which is how the name and the idea for the event came about.

“We wanted to have an event that would sort of highlight that there are men out there who are good men who support and want to make a positive difference,” Carr said.

These positive representations of men came from all over the area and vary across ages, backgrounds and careers, according to Carr.

“We almost always have a kid or two who participates or maybe a father son team,” Carr said. “We have law enforcement, we have retired folks, we have people who work in the food industry [and] this is what they do; and we have, you know, casual folks who just really have a passion for food and want to share it.”

Whether it be soup, salad, side dish, or an entrée, each man received their own station to prepare bite-sized portions of their dish for event attendees and attempt to place 1, 2 or 3 place in their category or achieve the title of “Master Chef” by the end of the night.

One chef Daniel Douglas, employee at the academy of lifelong learning, said he is a “foodie” and this is his first-time cooking for this event.

“I love cooking, in fact, and if there’s an excuse to do it, count me in,” Douglas said.

Other chefs like Eric Walton, employee at Vesuvius USA, have been cooking for this event for years and he said he keeps coming back because it’s enjoyable to do.

“You get the chance to taste test food on people,” Walton said. “So, I try and make something different every year.”

EIU student volunteers also helped at the event and Irina Bezuglova, junior nutrition and dietetics major, said she likes this event not only because it raises awareness of child abuse, but because it allows people to engage with their community.

“If you’re just in your little corner, you know, at Eastern in your dorm, you don’t really know what’s going on,” Bezuglova said.

This year’s winners of the Men Who Cook event were: Appetizer Category: 1st: Eric Walton – Bacon Crackers, 2nd: Christy Otto – Otto’s Smoked Queso, 3rd: Kevin Blatnik & Cory Stabler – Buffalo Chicken Pierogis; Entree Category: 1st: John Bunyard – Chicken Noodles, 2nd: Chris Darimont – Texas Bacon Jam Meatloaf, 3rd Michael Brown – Chicken in Mushroom Sauce; Soup/Salad/Side Dish Category: 1st: Rhys Pankey – Bacon Mac-N-Cheese, 2nd: Curtis Ropiequet – Loaded Mashed Potatoes, 3rd: Dan Haughee – Mock Turtle Soup; Dessert Category: 1st: Tony West – Tony’s Cannolis, 2nd: Alex Carr – Dark Chocolate Chip Cookies with Almonds, 3rd: Jeremy Bennett – Bennett’s Brownies; Master Chef: Andrew Bunyard – Blueberry Crumbles.

More information is on the center’s website or Facebook page.


Heather Vosburgh can be reached at 581-2812 or at [email protected].