More than 400 patrons of the arts and refined palates came together Oct. 25 for the 17th annual Real Men Cook fundraiser at Flag is Up Farms in Solvang, a benefit for Arts Outreach, a nonprofit arts education organization seeking to bring art into the community.

Fundraiser shows real men do cook


About 40 chefs prepared food from about a dozen different categories. In addition, about 25 different local vintners were on hand to pour from their selection of wines. Local executive chefs acted as the judges and taste-tested items from each category to determine their favorites.

Guests were free to wander from table to table chatting with the chefs and sampling the creations while enjoying live music from Debby White and Pureheart. A silent auction ran throughout the evening and featured a wide variety of items, including unusual wines, tickets to local attractions and gift baskets, to name a few.

All of the chefs were volunteers, donating their time and ingredients to support Arts Outreach, an organization that provides art workshops to local schools, during and after school. For many of the participants, the event has become a tradition.


Jeff McKinnon, who prepared macaroons with whiskey sauce, has been participating in the Real Men Cook fundraiser for eight years.

“It’s a great party, a good event — and it’s fun to have that competitive edge,” he said of the friendly competition between chefs vying for the top prize in their category.

To the right of MacKinnon’s table was Mark Bates, a longtime participant who reentered his five spice chicken salad, a dish that won the top prize in 1999.

While several chefs prided themselves on their individual efforts to prepare their appetizing creations, a few of the entries were created through a collaborative effort.

For Greg and Steve Johnson, who won first place this year for their meat entrée, the annual event has become a father-son tradition, they said. The two served Gaucho Bull Bites, a recipe from Spain that has been passed down in their family.

Some of the other delicious samplings served throughout the night included Raul Uribe and Greg Weil’s shrimp enchiladas; Steve Rein’s chilled salmon with capers, basil, thyme and rosemary; Firestone Walker Brewery’s Pale Ale; and Presidio Winery’s warm climate and cool climate Syrah.


Calling it a “very successful event,” Arts Outreach Program Director Catherine Affolter, said the event hinges upon the generosity of the community.

“I have to thank Pat and Monty Roberts, the volunteers, chefs and vintners who poured,” said Affolter. “They worked hard for this great cause.”

When the night was over, most chefs were hoping their selections had pleased the guests and judges.

“That’s the sign of good food, when you want to come back for more,” said Nick Harvey, who prepared spicy chipotle chicken tacos using his own taco sauce and seasoning.

In the end, though, the evening was about continuing the tradition of excellence that Arts Outreach has provided to the community.

Stan Roberts, who prepared Los Olivos Limon bars, noted that this concept was the focus of the night.

“It’s really one of the longstanding great traditions in the valley,” he said.

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