True Flavors Shining Through

Stars face off in the kitchen to break through gender stereotypes for kids

Iron Chef Parents

True Flavors Shining Through

Stars face off in the kitchen to break through gender stereotypes for kids

-Mary Beth Sammons

Gina ReeseForget silent auctions, walk-a-thons and stuffy black-tie events. Tired of “rubbery chicken” fundraisers, mom Gina Reiss decided to spice up the charity scene by turning celebrities into Top Chefs and inviting intimate audiences to dine, drink and soak up the cooking competition, then dish up the cash before the famous folk dash back into the limelight.

Called the “True Flavors Celebrity Cook-Offs,” the events are being held this year in eight cities nationwide. They are designed to raise awareness and financial support for TrueChild, a non-profit devoted to boosting children’s self-esteem and banishing gender and societal stereotypes, Founder Gina Reiss, a mom of a two-and-a-half-year-old, is one of a group of parents who have rallied together to launch an online community to provide parental support.

“In talking to my friends who are parents too, I started becoming really concerned about the harmful messages kids get on a daily basis,” says Reiss. “I wanted to give other parents a resource and a community where they could come to get support to help their kids when things like bullying, or gender stereotypes.”

The online community will unite parents to help fight off these ” narrow, stereotypical messages” their children were seeing about “sex appeal, pink for girls, and guns, toughness and sports for boys. We want to do everything we can to get rid of the stereotypes that prevent kids from being themselves and reaching their full potential,” she says.

The events feature two cooking teams competing against each other including a celebrity, local chef and audience sous-chef (determined by a live auction).

Gina Reese and Mika BrzezinskiHeld in cities across the country, most recently Soledad O’Brien (CNN anchor and advisory board chairperson) faced off against MSNBC’s Mika Brzezinski (co-host of Morning Joe and an MSNBC anchor) at an event held May 8, in New York City.

The two celebrity moms cooked in an Iron Chef-style competition. Top Chef winners Harold Dieterle (Season 1, owner and chef of NYC’s Perilla) and Hung Huynh (Season 3, executive chef of NYC’s Solo) were on the other side this time, judging the competition. Past stars have included comedian Kathy Griffin (who filmed the event for the 2006 season finale of her hit reality show My Life on the D-List), Oscar winner Marlee Matlin, Oprah Winfrey‘s former personal chef Art Smith, actress Jennifer Beals, and Top Chef judge Ted Allen.

Teams each have 35 minutes to make a specialty drink, appetizer, main course and dessert. In addition to the celebrity cooking competition, the evenings a reception prior to the event, so the 250-member audience, who each pay $250, can hob-nob with the stars before the competitive culinary fires start burning.
Upcoming events for 2009 will be held June 25 at Mise En Place in Denver, and in the fall you can look forward to events in Austin, Atlanta, San Francisco, Washington, D.C., and Orlando.

Photo Credit: Kat Fitzgerald

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