‘Miracle Chef’ Presents Exquisite Meals Made With Recovered Food
By Veronica Haggar
Last Friday October 2, Boca Helping Hands (BHH) held the second annual Miracle Chef, an event in which six different teams competed against each other cooking delicious dishes made with recovered food.
“So tonight we have our second Miracle Chef,” said James Gavrilos, executive director of Boca Helping Hands during the event. “It was my stupid idea to call this ‘Iron Chef’; Bozena [Szalobryt, director of food center at BHH] came to me and said well let’s call it ‘Miracle Chef’ because we work miracles everyday in that kitchen, and we do,” affirmed Gavrilos. “Thanks to the amazing volunteers at Helping Hands, thanks to our incredible contributors, our food donors, our corporate community sponsors, we work miracles here everyday, somehow, someway, 200 hot meals come out of this kitchen and an amazing amount of bags.”
The teams of volunteers that participated were Love In Action, Love Out Loud, The Souperstars, Bon Appétit, Lunch Bunch, and Team Cuisine, all made up by incredible cooks that dedicate their time and effort to make hot meals for those in need.
“These are the teams who, with incredible selflessness, come day after day, week after week, month after month, and prepare the food,” said Gavrilos introducing the teams. “They don’t do it for thanks, they don’t do it for applause, they do it because from the words of Mother Teresa, ‘God does not expect us to do great things but we can do small things we great amounts of love’.”
This year four food experts were invited to the event as the celebrity judges. Starting with judge Max Tucci, host of Max and Friends on L.A. Talk Radio and host of Eye On The People with Max Tucci on WSFL CW. Another judge was Letty Alvarez, founder and pastry chef at LA Sweetz, which was featured on Food Network’s “Cupcake Wars”. Judge Denise Righetti, who is Chief Foodie Officer of Savor Our City Culinary Tours and food blogger at BocaFoodFinds.com. Last but not least, Chef Aaron Fuller, Food and Beverage Director at Mar-a-Lago Club.
The judges tried all the different plates and selected a winner for each award according to the category of the award that was most fitting for each dish.
Team Love In Action won the first award, ‘The Most Health Friendly Dish’. The second award for ‘The Best Recipe’ went to Bon Appétit. The winning team for the ‘A Taste of Home’ award was The Souperstars. Team Lunch Bunch won the award for ‘Most Flavorful Dish’. Team Cuisine won an award for ‘Best Presentation’. Last award, ‘The Most Creative Dish’ went to Love Out Loud.
Some of the dishes offered at the event were baked clams, and Caponata, an eggplant appetizer, both made by the team Love In Action. Another dish was the New England fish cakes with cilantro creme, and the beef supreme, both made by Team Cuisine. Team Bon Appétit offered a great taste of Italy with their sausage and peppers both mild and hot.
All the dishes were made with recovery food from local restaurants and stores.
“We are blessed with incredible food recovery partners, Publix, Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, Winn Dixie and Costco, Target and Walmart, help us with our pantry program,” said Gavrilos. “On our restaurant side, Capital Grill, an amazing partner with us, Seasons 52, Cheesecake Factory, Olive Garden, Little Caesar,” detailed Gavrilos. “All of these local restaurant establishments do food recovery to help us feed those 53,000 hot meals and 66,000 bags of groceries.”
BHH serves 9 elementary schools in Boca Raton with their program Boca Helping Hands Backpacks. As of today, they send home 1,400 backpacks every Friday with food for the weekend to the children.
“Every year in America we produce 535 billion pounds of food and we throw out half of it. Of the half we throw out, half of that is recoverable and usable,” stated Gavrilos. “The year we moved into this building we recovered 323,000 pounds of food, last year folks we recovered 1.8million pounds of food,” proceeded Gavrilos. “Every month 150,000 pounds of food moves through this warehouse.”
After the award ceremony, Gavrilos asked for the attention of the audience to congratulate the volunteers for their effort, and asked to applaud Mike Munger, member of the Love Out Loud team who, not only comes into the kitchen every Friday to cook the food, but he goes out to Costco every Thursday and buys it himself.
“It’s that love, it’s that spirit, it’s that commitment that makes Boca Helping Hands the place it is,” concluded Gavrilos, before inviting everyone once again to enjoy the succulent meals from the menu.
The event was a success. Everybody left with a full tummy, a big smile and a happy heart.
Click on photo to enlarge.