DeKALB – Taxco chef Jesus Romero remembers a time when his family didn’t have any food to eat some days.
Romero’s mother, who received help from other people while working multiple jobs, told her son when he was little that he needed to give back.
So he did. Romero participated in a fundraiser Friday called the Battle of the Chefs Gourmet Cook-Off at Feed ‘Em Soup, 122 S. First St., DeKalb. All proceeds benefited Feed ‘Em Soup, a soup kitchen which helps feed the homeless.
“It’s a great opportunity to give back to the community,” Romero said. “That’s the reward for me.”
Romero put his skills to the test against Feed ‘Em Soup chef Alex Smith in a duel which served an appetizer, entree and dessert. The audience chose the winner by a round of applause.
It wasn’t Smith’s first time cooking with Romero, who was his boss during Smith’s first cooking job at Taxco.
“This is like being in culinary school again,” he said.
Guests, who paid $50 a ticket, ate food such as seared cherry tarragon glazed beef while sipping on wine.
The fundraiser was the highest in terms of ticket price, and Feed ‘Em Soup sold about 70 to 75 tickets.
“The key is the unique menu,” said Derek Gibbs, Feed ‘Em Soup’s executive director. “It’s a little bit of an elevated experience.”
Gibbs said the restaurant plans to continue to host similar fundraisers, flirting with the idea of mirroring The Food Network’s “Iron Chef,” which challenges chefs to incorporate one ingredient into all their meals.
“It’s a creative way to raise funds for us,” Gibbs said. “This community doesn’t really have the epic, fine-dining experience.”
Chuck Keller of Wines for Humanity was offering samples of his products, which donate 12 to 17 percent of all sales to charities, focusing on those which prevent homelessness. Keller also held a silent auction that donated all proceeds to Feed ‘Em Soup.
“It’s a fun way to make wine and give back to the community at the same time,” Keller said.
The experience was memorable for mother Carolyn Dial and son Ben Wilcox of Sycamore.
It was Dial’s first time eating at Feed ‘Em Soup. She has donated to the restaurant before.
“They treat you with dignity and respect when you’re down on your luck,” Dial said. “Everybody deserves to be treated that way.”
Wilcox purchased his tickets for the fundraiser during a silent auction in September, he said.
It also was Woodstock resident Corinne Buening’s first time eating at Feed ‘Em Soup.
Calling herself a “softie,” she didn’t vote on which chef she thought had the best food.
“I don’t want there to be a loser. They’re both winners because they’re doing this for charity,” she said.