“I love the family-fun atmosphere at Men Who Cook. People come and they really enjoy it. They are relaxed. It’s an opportunity to reunite with friends you haven’t seen in a while,” says Theresa Sanders, the chair of this year’s annual Alpha Kappa Alpha Men Who Cook fundraiser event. “I also enjoy all of the camaraderie with the cooks. They seem to get along really well and they are competitive … but in a friendly way.”
“It’s good healthy, competition among the men. They talk a lot of smack in the beginning, but they end up tasting each other’s food at the end of the event and giving each other kudos,” adds AKA Kappa Psi Omega Chapter President Nichelle Nichols tells Madison365. “It’s always very heartwarming to see that.”
The competition will be fierce as area men will be preparing and cooking up their best dishes for the Kappa Psi Omega Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated’s 25th annual Men Who Cook Scholarship Fundraiser Saturday, March 9, 2 p.m. at the Kromrey Middle School in Middleton.
Proceeds from Men Who Cook tickets sales will go towards raising money for college scholarships and educational programming funds for local underrepresented youth. Last year, the organization awarded $10,000 in scholarships to graduating high school students.
“The thing that is really, really important for us is that it is an opportunity to raise scholarship money because we are in the giving business and so it gives us a chance to raise money to advocate for all of these wonderful, smart African-American students that are attending our high schools,” Sanders says. “That’s the best part of the event.
“This is the 25th anniversary. We are very excited about the event,” Sanders adds. “This is one of our signature events.”
Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc., the oldest nationally recognized sorority for African American women, was founded in 1908 on the campus of Howard University in Washington, D.C. The Kappa Psi Omega Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc. was chartered here in Madison on May 15, 1976.
Sanders was the first-ever Men Who Cook chairperson and helped to start the event with fellow AKA T. Ella Strothers.
“This was 1994 and I was the president of the AKA chapter and we were looking for a fundraiser that also was family fun,” Sanders remembers. “We wanted something that the community could buy into and also a way to raise scholarship funds. So, T. Ella did a little research to find out what was going on in other chapters throughout the midwest and she found this event called ‘Cooking Men.’
Strothers brought the idea back to the local AKA chapter. “We decided to do it. And she named it ‘Men Who Cook,’” Sanders says.
The first event was held at Lincoln Elementary School on Madison’s south side and had about 50 attendees. “One of our sorority sisters – Andreal Davis – was the principal at Lincoln and she allowed us to use the school,” Sanders remembers. “We started small. We only had about 10 cooks that year.
“Some of the famous cooks back then were Police Chief Richard Williams, the twins – Paul Higginbotham and Steve Braunginn, T. Ella’s husband, Anthony Brown,” Snders continues. “That event was so much fun because we were small in numbers. We got to see the real deal with the men and their cooking and the crowd really enjoyed them.”
The event continued to grow and grow over its 25 years as it moved around to Madison College, the Fitchburg Community Center, CUNA Mutual and now at Kromrey Middle School.
There are more cooks, too. Sanders expects 20 cooks at this year’s event.
“The food has gotten more elaborate over the years, too. We started out with some pretty simple stuff and now we’re getting into some specialty foods,” Sanders says.
At the end of the event, community members sample entrées, side dishes, and desserts and then vote for their favorites. Votes are tallied and awards are presented for first, second, and third place in each category based on attendants’ choice or People’s Choice Awards. There are also the Judge’s Choice Awards given by the consensus of three professional Madison-area chefs.
“I always look forward to the great camaradeire and the healthy competition between the cooks,” Nichols says. “Everybody comes with their ‘A’ game and they come ready to win. I love watching the men interacting with each other and the way the event engages the community because people bring their entourages of folks to vote for them.
“The event is always upbeat. It’s family-friendly and positive. There’s really nothing like it … and the proceeds are supporting our scholarships for our college-bound high school students,” Nichols adds. “The ticket is a worthwhile investment in helping us send talented high school students off to college.”
The Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc. invites the community to the 25th annual Men Who Cook Scholarship Fundraiser Saturday, March 9, 2 p.m., at the Kromrey Middle School in Middleton. Great raffle prizes, good food, and family fun. Tickets are still available. For more information, click here.