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Packed house visits What's Cookin

Sue Spink and April Boom, members of the Mt. Morris Ladies team, make Jell-o shots at What's Cookin. Photo by Chris Johnson
Sue Spink and April Boom, members of the Mt. Morris Ladies team, make Jell-o shots at What's Cookin. Photo by Chris Johnson

What started in Rockford and onto Rochelle has found its way to Oregon. Based off the popular “30 Men Who Cook” concept, the Rock River Center of Oregon created a spin-off called “What’s Cookin”.

Playing in front of a packed house of hundreds of eager diners at Oak Lane in Daysville on Saturday, March 26 area cooking teams supplied a myriad of food concoctions, including such exotic offerings as chocolate-covered bacon and deviled eggs topped with bugs.

For the less adventuresome, there were also the old standbys, such as a variety of appetizers, meats, salads, breads, soups and desserts.

The event served as a fundraiser for the Rock River Center, as patrons paid $20 for entrance.

“This is a lot of fun,” said Ed Fane of Oregon, one of the 376 counted attendees.

As the hungry masses began to assemble and were first met by the smell of Dick Zimmerman deep-frying catfish outside, it was apparent that this was no ordinary fundraiser.

The combination of the bucolic setting of Oak Lane, the vast array of food and party atmosphere also turned “What’s Cookin” into a social gathering par excellence.

“We’re thrilled,” Rock River Director Ann Haas said. “Next year, it will be even bigger. With this crowd, we will need to put a tent up.”

For an event that had no interested cooking teams show up at the first planning meeting, “What’s Cookin” came a long way in four months. That was about the time Joyce Bruns proposed the idea to Haas.

“I’ve been to the event at Rochelle and had always wanted to do it in Oregon for a fundraiser for the Rock River Center,” Bruns said.

Bruns and her friend Diane Palmer went to Haas and after some convincing got the RRC to buy into the concept. It was a risky venture for RRC, as they had never attempted an off-site fundraiser.

“It was an awesome idea, ‘let’s go for it’, I said,” Haas said. “It took a lot of coordinating and we were fortunate to have staff with organizational experience."

Slowly, the venture began to pick up steam as more and more people were contacted.

“We couldn’t let that first meeting bother us. We kept right at it,” Bruns said. “It was just a matter of informing the community and they were great at that.”

But, it was Bruns and Palmer who were the driving force behind the event.

“From the beginning, Joyce and I wanted to incorporate more than Oregon. We wanted this to be for the whole county,” Palmer said.

Even with the overflow crowds, Haas has no plans at this point in moving “What’s Cookin” to a bigger venue.

“Oak Lane was gracious to host this. They’ve been wonderful to work with,” Haas said. “We plan to have it at the end of April instead of March."

Sean Considine, Byron, served as celebrity spokesperson for the event and could be found handing out that chocolate-covered bacon for his joint ventureship with Headon Meats.

The deviled eggs served with bugs were provided by Lucky and Louie Larson of Stillman Valley and winners of the “Get Out Alive” reality television show.

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