It’s a food fight: Chefs duel it out to fight poverty

  • Thursday, May 2, 2013

This year ECCO is having a spring fundraiser called The Golf “Ball.” This special event combines our annual golf tournament with an evening gala, which includes live music and a silent auction, while emphasizing our quest for defeating poverty in the East Cooper community.

This exciting event will feature three of Charleston’s top chefs battling it out in a grill-off on Thursday, May 23 at the Daniel Island Club to benefit East Cooper Community Outreach (ECCO).

There are many people who are coming together to create an amazing evening that has not yet been seen in the Lowcountry.

Helen Keller said, “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much” and that is exactly what the community is doing in order to combat poverty.

The benefit will include chefs John Ondo of Lana’s, Ben Berryhill from Red Drum, and Jeremiah Bacon of The McIntosh and Oak Steakhouse.

These chefs have agreed to spare some of their valuable time in order to seek the title of “Sliced” Champion.

They are using their talents to spread awareness of the needs of other people. The judges for the evening are Michelle Weaver of The Charleston Grill, Mike Lata of Fig Restaurant and Matt Lee, cookbook author extraordinaire.

Together with these local celebrities are countless volunteers, sponsors and donors willing to participate in any way that they can to Help Their Neighbors Help Themselves.

The mission of ECCO is to address the needs of those unable to provide necessities and to spur these individuals to become self-sustaining. It is a community movement that inspires Hope and Empowerment for those less fortunate and it takes many different individuals to join in this fight in order to make a difference.

I recently met with Mickey Bakst, general manager at the Charleston Grill. I asked him about helping with a cooking event that could be used to support our cause against poverty. He enthusiastically jumped right on it.

He stepped in and pulled the chefs together within a few hours for this extraordinary occasion.

“For years I have listened to individuals whom I respect immensely tell me of the efforts of ECCO,” he said. “Eventually if you hear about something so favorably so many times you have no choice but to take a look.”

When I asked why he would want to spend his time helping us conduct such a big event, he replied, “All of the work that ECCO is doing is essential to the well being of the area.”

ECCO’s focus is to eliminate generational poverty in East Cooper. A task this large requires our community to come together. In the aftermath of the tragedy at the Boston Marathon, we have seen our country’s spirit lifted and united.

Every day I see ways of how our community is united by joining forces to address the root causes of poverty. We are seeing churches, schools and other non-profits joining hands to do what they can to make these changes, individually and collectively.

The Golf “Ball” illustrates the willingness of many to contribute in whatever capacity they can manage. Mickey continued, “First and foremost, chefs can use their skills and talents to help organizations like ECCO raise money.”

It is so gratifying to see the enthusiasm of volunteers mingle with the creative talents of the chefs while local businesses jump right in by sponsoring tables or golf holes.

So, who will win the grill-off competition? I am a fan of all three chefs. It’s a toss-up for me. So I asked Mickey what he thought and he had the best answer, “ECCO, and more importantly its clients, will be the ultimate winner of this exciting evening.”


Jack Little is the executive director of the East Cooper Community Outreach.

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