COLUMBIA CITY â€” The aprons were on. The serving tongs were drawn, but something was missing.
Where was the three-year reigning champion cook-off team lead by the fearless Sen. Gary â€śDocâ€ť Dillon?
They were seated in the Church of God auditorium, with nary a drop of sweat on their brows, enjoying the meal with the 400 other The Center for Whitley County Youth Benefit Cook-off feasters.
â€śWe coulda wupped them this year,â€ť said Bob Addison, the master chef behind their previous successes.
And before it was announced, he could be seen back in the kitchen discussing ingredients with Whitkoâ€™s Theresa Daggett, the culinary arts instructor who taught the Whitko team their winning ways.
Dillon said he missed the fun of cooking, but had been busy since his retirement working at the medical school.
Addison admitted he has two other events to cook for this month and didnâ€™t want to stretch himself too thin.
Dillon gets revenge
Dillon had a bit of payback to attend to this year though, to another soon-to-be retiree, Columbia City Mayor Jim Fleck.
At last yearâ€™s cook-off, Fleck did a bit of a roast on Dillon giving him some ribbing for his uncanny knack of going out to eat with no means to pay for his meal, requiring his companions to take care of the tab.
This year, Dillon told a story of a canoe trip in which Fleck lost his wifeâ€™s camera, requiring a thorough search all along the way they had traveled. When the group finally gave up and went on, Fleck later opened his tackle box to find the missing camera.
To keep this from happening again, Dillon presented Fleck with his own personal camera â€” a disposable Kodak point and shoot, complete with a Mickey Mouse carrying case.
Not finished, Republican Dillon noted that Democratic Mayor Fleck is also â€ślostâ€ť politically and handed him a book with a picture of George Bush on the cover to fix that problem, as well.
It was all in good fun, and Fleck wasted no time in using his first gift, taking a picture of Dillon as he handed him the tome.
The event drew a large crowd and set a new record for donations to The Center, according to a post on the organizationâ€™s Facebook page.
In the post, Jeff Wike, executive director at The Center for Whitley County Youth, wrote, â€śThe response tonight (Thursday) in gifts and pledges was $28,265. This blows previous years out of the water! In addition, more than $16,000 was given as matching funds. So the grand total, not including sponsor support is over $44,000! Thank you!â€ť