Starting as an intimate gathering of about 300 people, College Station ISD Education Foundation's 50 Men Who Can Cook fundraiser has grown over the years to where a couple thousand people usually walk through the doors.
The 12th annual event is the "signature fundraiser" for the CSISD Education Foundation. The money from Friday night's event and others throughout the year goes toward supporting scholarships, innovative teacher grants, Success 24/7, the Pre-K and Head Start book voucher program and Chrissy's Closet.
This year's fundraiser, held at the Brazos County Expo, had 142 celebrity chefs manning 67 booths, with each booth plating 800 servings of their selected recipe.
Each recipe fell into four categories -- appetizer/side/salad, entrée, dessert or soup/chili -- with a winner selected in each, as well as a best decorated prize and the cook who sold the most tickets.
With more than $200,000 raised last year, CSISD Education Foundation Executive Director Teresa Benden said, this year's event was on track to be just as successful.
"We're just so grateful to the community," she said.
This year was Hector Acevedo's third time participating with Wells Fargo, which has had a booth for five years. As a regional district manager for the Bryan-College Station and Navasota area, he said, it is important to him to give back to the communities, and 50 Men Who Can Cook provides that opportunity.
Though their dish has changed over the past five years, Acevedo said, this year they chose to keep it simple and bring chicken spaghetti, which is a staple at the Wells Fargo potluck meals, specifically using Navasota branch manager Joe Valdez's recipe.
Even though it is a simple comfort food, he said, "When it comes to feeding 800 people, it's not so simple. We woke up today at 6 o'clock this morning, and we've been cooking and prepping all of our food until about 2 o'clock this afternoon by the time we were done, and we made it here at 3 o'clock to get it set up. We started early. We wanted to make sure it was fresh and it was hot, and it was really good for the folks."
Nathan Anz's booth ran out of their servings of bacon-wrapped pork loin -- 20 pork loins -- within an hour.
Each year, the event is just a lot of fun, the Forest Ridge third-grade teacher said.
"It's great seeing lots of people, and then we get to support the Education Foundation that, as a teacher, I get to get those sort of grants that the Education Foundation provides and helps in the classroom with technology or different things that normally we wouldn't get to have," Anz said.
This was Meagan Shipley's first year to attend, and she was surprised by how many people were at the event, saying, "I am in education, so for me it means a lot to see the community show up to support the foundation and to support schools and teachers in the community."
A professor at Texas A&M University, Shipley called the food "all-around very good."
This year was also the first year for A&M Consolidated High School wide receivers coach Mike Mullins and his wife, Cheryl, to attend. Both impressed with the food and the atmosphere.
"It's very good to see all these people out here supporting," Mike Mullins said.
"Who knew that men could cook, right?" Cheryl Mullins said with a laugh.
Rookie of the Year: Ring of Fire BBQ
Appetizer: Bacon-wrapped kielbasa bites with brown sugar glaze
Soup/chili: Smoked Brisket Gulag Goulash
Entrée: Holik Street Tacos
Dessert: Building Smiles One Bite at a Time
Best Decorated: Sloppy Joes
Most tickets: John Morgan with Webber Commercial Construction