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Real men can cook

John Simmons | Nov 15, 2017

Real Mean Can Cook chefs offer samples of their culinary creations.

On a Thursday evening this past September, nearly 300 Kiwanians and guests streamed in, out and around the enormous conference room at Flint Hills Technical College in Emporia, Kansas. Around them, a variety of tempting aromas swirled through the air. Two of those scents wafted from the space manned by Lyle Klamm, one of 40 talented cooks who were participating in the Emporia Kiwanis Club's annual Real Men Can Cook fundraiser.

“To tell you the truth, I've been cooking since I was about eight or nine,” says Klamm, who served up cheese straws and sausage-and-cheddar biscuit bites.

By participating in the event, Klamm and his fellow cooks raised money for The Eliminate Project, a joint effort by Kiwanis International and UNICEF to combat maternal and neonatal tetanus, a deadly disease that takes the lives of nearly 34,000 babies each year.

“This year's event received tremendous support from the community,” says Kiwanis Club of Emporia President Debbie Williams.

Real Men Can Cook started as the brainchild of Bill Jensen, a member of the former Hi-Noon, Emporia Kiwanis Club. When that club disbanded about four years ago, some of its members transferred to the Emporia club. This past year, members decided to revive the event, thanks to a substantial nudge from Jean Tidwell, past president of the Emporia club and current Real Men organizer.

The assignment was simple: Real Men's cooks were to prepare tasting portions of their favorite recipes, with the goal of feeding at least 100 guests. The result was a veritable foodie's paradise, with recipes ranging from simple standards (mac-and-cheese, homemade ice cream) to more exotic dishes, such as bacon-wrapped dates, paella and deer casserole.

“I saw two women each carrying two fully loaded trays, one in each arm,” says Klamm. “There were people there that sampled nearly everything.”

Real Men's cooks came from all walks of life and included a celebrity chef or two. Flint Hill Technical College President Dean Hollenbeck participated, as did Hopkins Manufacturing President and CEO Brad Kraft, former Emporia Mayor Rob Gilligan and past Kiwanis Kansas District Governor Bill Donegan. (The latter made a roughly 100-mile trek from Olathe, Kansas, to serve up his crab Rangoon-stuffed mini peppers).

Through ticket sales, sponsor donations and sales of a cookbook filled with the evening's recipes, Real Men's one night of taste-testing and gourmet living raised nearly US$6,000 for The Eliminate Project, minus expenses. It all adds up to a community evening of fine cuisine dedicated to raising money for a cause that can change the lives of children everywhere.

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