Teams set to battle at fourth Benefit Cookoff challenge

COLUMBIA CITY — While public schools are generally not held up as creators of haute cuisine, when it comes to competition, they move to the head of the class. All three county public schools are going head to head — in chef hats — with the cafeteria staff at Parkview Whitley Hospital, to see who can make the tastiest meal, according to a persnickety public. And all for a good cause.Jeff Wike, director of The Center for Whitley County Youth is excited this year as he is planning for The Benefit Cookoff. In its fourth year, Wike says the event grows by another 50 people each year.“We had 300 the first year, 350 the next and last year we were at capacity with 400,” Wike said.Last year’s event brought in $32,000 to support The Center which serves the youth of Whitley County with after-school programs, homework help, etc.According to The Center’s Facebook page, “Four cooking teams will each prepare a three-course meal for all in attendance to enjoy. Each team will compete for your vote by preparing their signature feast to win the prestigious ‘Best Overall Meal’ award, as well as the ‘Best Dish’ and ‘Most Creative Meal’ awards. “Cooking teams are led by community all-stars: Gregg Goewert — Team Columbia City High School; Jorell Tucker — Team Whitko High School; Shanna Fleetwood — Team Churubusco High School; and Scott Gabriel — Team Parkview.”While attendance is free, those wishing to sample the savory selections must reserve a spot by April 1 by calling or e-mailing Wike at The Center at 248-4977 or Include your full name, and the full names of your guests, as well as a daytime phone number or e-mail for contact purposes. No child care is provided. The 4th Annual Benefit Cookoff for The Center for Whitley County Youth will be from 6:30 to 9 p.m. April 14 at the First Church of God Banquet Hall, 1200 Depoy Dr., Columbia City, IN 46725. For more information, go to