Normally, the annual Celebrity Chef Dinner brings in someone with a wealth of culinary knowledge to put on a show for the audience. The 2019 event did just the opposite, but it went just as well.
This year’s celebrity chefs were Plant City Police Chief Ed Duncan and Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister, notable not only for catching criminals, but also for being completely unable to cook despite being meticulously healthy eaters.
The event was about the two lawmen’s first experience taking a cooking class and the audience enjoying every minute of it.
“I think the motto is, ‘If they can do it, we can do it,’” Mayor Rick Lott said.
Duncan and Chronister were tasked with recreating the meal served to attendees: steak au poivre, better known in Plant City as ribeye steak with peppercorns. Luckily for their taste testers, who happened to be their wives, the men were helped by Chef Anthony Logerfo of the Publix Aprons program.
Roasting wasn’t limited to the ingredients. The wives and colleagues of Duncan and Chronister past and present were invited to speak during the show, gently ribbing the two amateur chefs, and even Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd got in on the action with a video played just before the cast iron skillet heated up.
“I’d be surprised if either of them can do any more than microwave a hot dog,” Judd joked.
Midway through the demonstration, attendees were also treated to trays of glazed doughnuts — “a police officer’s favorite food,” Lott joked.
The steaks were cooked rare with what tasters described as a generous portion of salt (Duncan and Chronister were encouraged to do their best “Salt Bae” impressions), but ultimately turned out to be edible. Whether Duncan or Chronister uses this cooking class as a stepping stone to spend more time in the kitchen remains to be seen, but both visibly had fun trying something new.
“I couldn’t have asked for a better partner than Sheriff Chad Chronister, who is a personal friend of mine,” Duncan said.
Most importantly, the event was a financial success with Steve and Susan Hurley donating more than $15,000 during a live auction for a pair of dinner events. There was also a silent auction featuring dozens of signed sports memorabilia and other items, as well as a raffle containing $900 in gift cards. The dinner was catered by 911 Catering.
The event is a fundraiser for the United Food Bank of Plant City, which director Mary Heysek said distributed 1.3 million pounds of food throughout the Plant City community in the past year.
“This is a great cause… there’s no doubt that when you elevate people, our community benefits,” Chronister said.