GoPacks Top Chef Challenge

The GoPacks Top Chef Challenge showcases not only the talent of local culinary artists, but their desire to help hungry children in Marietta.

On Friday from 5:30 to 9 p.m. at the Marietta Shrine Club, three chefs will cook the most elegant entree they can out of the food that children take home from the GoPacks program. GoPacks started four years ago, and provides food for children to take home from Marietta schools over weekends and school breaks.

“The program is available in all Marietta City grade schools…and we just started at Marietta Middle School this semester,” said Heather Warner, executive director of the program..

Students are provided with foods like soups, vegetables and healthy snacks for them to eat in case food isn’t readily available in their homes.

“We are using food to fight food insecurity,” Wagner said.

The competition on Friday features three chefs from the area who will be required to use foods from a usual GoPack in order to make a gourmet meal.

The three chefs competing in the second year of the challenge are Zachary Leverett of AVI Food Systems, Erling Berner and returning champion Tom Hickey of the Cornerstone Inn in Beverly.

“I’ve had to take a cook test at every restaurant I’ve worked at where they give us a box of ingredients to cook,” Hickey said. “It was never stuff like fruit cups and mac and cheese.”

Hickey said his winning dish last year was macaroni and cheese cake.

“I cooked it and then froze it. Then I took it out of the freezer and deep fried it,” he said. “Having just 40 minutes isn’t a lot of time to cook.”

Wagner said at this year’s challenge, guests will be able to enjoy either a dinner of parmesan chicken, slow roasted beef or veggie lasagna as they watch the efforts of the three chefs. Wagner said that sides, desserts and beverages will also be provided as well as a cash bar. She also said there will be a live and silent auction filled with culinary-based items to bid on.

“We will have a five-star, seven-day culinary trip to Italy… a night on the town that includes tickets to the Peoples Bank Theatre, dinner and a night at a hotel…basically everything culinary,” she said.

Hickey said after talking to the chefs before last year’s competition, they all realized what the event was really all about.

“Whichever one of us wins, the kids still won,” he said.

Tickets for the event are $25 and available in The Cook’s Shop at 180 Front St. or by visiting gopacks4kids.org/events. Tickets aren’t available at the door and must be purchased today.