Local Community Leaders Weigh in on Chefs Around the Table

By: Caitlin Vanlaningham Last Updated: July 27, 2015

larry-hitzComing up on October 1, 2015 is the inaugural Chefs Around the Table fundraising event for the Empower Porter County initiative, Around the Table. The goal of Around the Table is to encourage families to communicate and connect, reinforcing bonds and enabling children to have bright and healthy futures thanks to the involvement and guidance of their parents.

Many cultures use food as a social connector. Families use food to teach lessons, to bond, pass on culture and heritage, and to show love.

“Around the Table is about having dining opportunities with families. It’s not about the food, it’s about what happens at the dinner table. Building strong relationships in a safe, relaxed environment,” Heather Harrigan Hitz, Executive Director of Empower Porter County said. “Studies have proven that there is a correlation between an engaged parent and lower risk of kids getting involved in negative activities. Anxiety and depression decrease, the likelihood of teen pregnancy and experimenting with drugs lessens, and other unhealthy behaviors decrease.”

Heather saw the initiative a few years ago in Bloomington Indiana and thought it was a perfect fit for Around the Table. It was called 100 Men Who Cook then, but she tweaked the name to Chefs Around the Table, and then began to gather the 100 men who would showcase their culinary prowess in the name of charity.

“Men are truly important aspects in a family,” Heather said. “I’m also part of the Porter County Community Foundation board. They have a successful women’s team and they wanted the men to get fired up about something.”

There are currently 97 chefs on board, one of them being Heather’s husband, Larry Hitz, Broker/Owner of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Executive Group Real Estate. Larry felt that this was a great way to give back to the community that has given so much to him and his business.

“The community has been very good to this company,” Larry said. “We’ve lived through the best of times and the worst of times, and we believe in giving back in every aspect. We had people involved in ValPlayso, the parks department, Nick [Arnold] was involved with the Boys and Girls Clubs of Porter County, there were people from here involved in the YMCA, the Caring Place… whether it’s giving time or money we are all about giving back to the community. It’s part of our culture here.”

Larry feels that helping your community is a life-long process.

chefs-around-table-logo“Substance abuse in this county is a chronic problem at all different levels,” he said. “We think our area is insulated but it’s really not, and people need to be made aware of it. Around the Table is one of the many ways that Empower Porter County is getting people to listen. Sit down with your kids, turn off the electronic devices, and have a real conversation with them. That will make a world of difference. I grew up that way and I love that concept.”

A few chefs you might recognize who are participating in Chefs Around the Table include: Nick Arnold of Berkshire Hathaway, Steve Lunn of Porter Regional Hospital, Rick Urschel of Urschel Laboratories, Inc., Chris Mahlmann of Ideas in Motion Media, Rob Thorgren of Thorgren Industries.

“Chefs Around the Table is going to be a lot of fun,” Larry said with a smile. “There are all kinds of guys involved, and we’re going to make it fun for everybody. We’re already talking smack and joking around.”

The recipes that the men cook will be put in a cookbook that we will give away at the end of the event. Tickets are on sale for $50 each, and guests can reserve a table of 8 for $500.

“I really am thrilled about it. The guys are so competitive and they can collect tips. Guests should come armed with tips to give to their favorite chef,” Heather said. “There will be winners based on who wins the most tips in their category, who gets the most tips overall, and who had the best tasting dish according to our restaurateurs. Winners will get a Cutco knife. ”

A three-man panel of professional restaurateurs – George Djurovic, owner of Main and Lincoln; Carlos Rivero, owner of Don Quijote; and Cory Muro, owner of Valley Kitchen and Tomato Bar – will judge the dishes and choose their favorite. Categories include: appetizer, soup, salad, main, and dessert.

For more information about Chefs Around the Table visit http://empowerpc.org/chefs-around-the-table/ 

Tickets can be purchased here: http://www.eventbrite.com/e/chefs-around-the-table-tickets-17321798967?ref=ebtnebtckt