ST. CHARLES – With two pans frying cashew encrusted tilapia at once, Michael Olesen had some serious sizzle going on.
Spatula in one hand, squirt bottle of oil in the other, with help from his nephew Olesen was serving up some hot fresh food Friday night at the 60 Men Who Cook fundraiser at the Kane County Fairgrounds in St. Charles.
Olesen, who owns Stockholm’s in Geneva, said they serve the same entrée there, but he credited his kitchen staff with doing a better job making it.
“I’m participating in this event because it helps out wonderful organizations in town,” Olesen said as he squirted the pieces of fish with oil and turned them over. “And you’ve got to give back.”
The sixth annual event is a fundraiser for the Geneva History Museum, Geneva Lions and Rotary and the Geneva Chamber of Commerce.
Chamber spokeswoman Laura Rush said when they first started hosting the event, they told participants to make enough samples for 200.
“Now we tell them to make enough for 300 people because attendance has increased every year,” Rush said.
Brenda Bieller, of Batavia, praised her husband Scott Bieller’s gumbo offering.
“He is the gumbo king,” Bieller said as her husband, clad in a red chef’s shirt, spooned out samples over rice. “It is so good. It’s got some andouille sausage in it. And some nice spice to it. It could stand up in New Orleans, it’s that good.”
Scott Bieller said it was his grandmother’s recipe.
“It’s unbelievable,” he said. “I can only hope I do her proud.”
Participants are asked to make samples of four food categories – appetizer, entrée, side dish and dessert. Attendees can taste each item and vote for their favorites, and participate in a raffle.
Among the tasters was Barbara Hallberg of St. Charles, savoring every bite of cold fruit salad made by Geneva Middle School student Tommy Antonson.
“It is absolutely delicious,” Hallberg said. “It’s an old family recipe. My aunt made it and he’s added a few secret ingredients and it’s delicious.”
Sheila and Mitch Belon of Geneva were trying out breakfast in Spain by Rebecca Colburn of Gracious Hall Catering.
“We’re just getting started,” Colburn said. “This is very good. It’s got olives in there, eggs and sauce. And then you can quench your palate with some nonalcoholic sangria.”
“My favorite so far is Don Kramer’s prime rib,” Mutch Belon said.
Kramer is a Republican who will be running against Democrat Willie Mayes Sr. for Kane County sheriff in the November election.
One of the longest lines for food samples was at Ron Onesti’s prime rib slide. Onesti owns the Arcada Theater in St. Charles.
Shelley and Mark Svoboda of Geneva were the 20th couple in line, noshing on some southwest chili while waiting.
Shelley said this was their first time here, recommended by friends who have come every year.
“It’s the biggest line here so maybe it’s going to be the best,” Mark Svoboda said. “We’re going to have to find out.”