The Kromrey Elementary School cafeteria in Middleton will be packed on Saturday, March 7, as men from all walks of life will come together to cook their best dishes and compete with each other to help the Kappa Psi Omega Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority raise money for scholarships for young people at the 26th Annual Men Who Cook.
“Men Who Cook continues to be our most visible way to promote the importance of education for our youth and the reason why we raise money for scholarships,” Nichelle Nichols, Kappa Psi Omega Chapter President, tells Madison365. “We are proud of our impact in the greater Madison area and appreciate the community’s support.”
This year’s Men Who Cook event will be titled “Where Passion Meets Purpose.” The Kappa Psi Omega Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha has provided over $60,000 in college scholarships to deserving students over the past 25 years.
“This will be our 26th annual event,” Katrell McNeil, chair of the 2020 Men Who Cook, tells Madison365. “The event is all about fun, community and fellowship.
“These men are always very competitive with each other knowing that the overall goal is to raise money for scholarships for college-bound youths,” she adds. “These are men who have cooking experience and have a passion for cooking.”
The 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. The first event Men Who Cook event was held back in 1994 at Lincoln Elementary School on Madison’s south side and had about 50 attendees. Now, the attendance is in the hundreds.
“We are going to have around 25 chefs and they will be competing in three categories: the entree category, the side dish category and the dessert category,” McNeil says. “Each of the three categories will be judged by official judges who were selected with cooking experience and have been in the community for a long time.”
Those awards are called the “Judges Choice Awards.” This year, the judges will be Forrest “Kipp” Thomas, Kipp’s Kitchen; Ron Moore, Oakwood Village West; John Marks, St. Mary’s Hospital Food & Nutrition and Zackery Loyd, Sheraton Hotels & Cheflife Movement.
“The dishes are also judged by the people who attend the event and those are called the ‘People’s Choice Awards,” McNeil says. “So, the judges get to vote and the attendees also get to vote.”
Sometimes those votes – The Judges Choice and the People’s Choice, 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place – line up exactly the same. Most times, however, they don’t.
“You never know what’s going to happen. But the People’s Choice Awards give the cooks the ability to receive more votes and to allow everybody there to really connect with the event,” she says.
The major sponsor of Men Who Cook 2020 is SSM Health.
“Over the past five years, our participating cooks including [SSM Health Care of Wisconsin] Regional President Damond Boatwright and Executive Chef John Marks, have truly enjoyed this event and are excited to experience this year’s creations,” McNeil says. “We are thrilled to continue our annual participation with Kyle Nondorf, SSM Health St. Mary’s Hospital’s new president cooking this year.”
The chefs are all set for this year, but the AKAs are always looking for new men to cook for the following years.
“Anybody who want to participate as a cook, they can send their information to us and they can be considered for next year,” McNeil says. “We have individuals who have been participating for 23-24 years and we have individuals who will be participating for the first time this year.”
The purpose of the Men Who Cook event is to raise money to award college scholarships to the 2020 high school graduates. Last year, the AKAs awarded $10,000 in scholarships to graduating high school students.
“One of the most gratifying moments is when we present our scholarships to the students at the annual Madison Metropolitan Links African American Student Recognition each spring,” says Nichols. “It’s very inspiring to see how much many of our high school students are balancing and accomplishing. It is wonderful to see how proud their families are and how they are applauded by the community in attendance.”
Every spring, the Madison Metropolitan Links, MMSD, and a host of other partners recognize African-American student talent in the greater Madison area. The AKAs present their own scholarships at the event from funds raised at Men Who Cook.
“What I really love about Men Who Cook is that the students who have won the scholarships the previous year can come and attend and give testimonials on how it’s helped them and everyone can see how they are really making an impact in their lives,” McNeil says.
“The event is a lot of great food and camaraderie and networking. It’s like family,” McNeil adds. “And at the end of the day, you’re helping young people reach their potential. This is an event for the whole community. There is still time to get tickets. We won’t be selling tickets at the door, so people will need to purchase them ahead of time.”
The Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc. invites the community to the 26th annual Men Who Cook Scholarship Fundraiser Saturday, March 7, 2 p.m., at the Kromrey Middle School in Middleton. For more information, click here.