A Party with a Purpose

In America today more than 50.1 million people struggle to put food on the table. More than 1 in 5 children is at risk of hunger, and among African-Americans and Latinos, it’s 1 in 3

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Chefs prepare their dishes Photo by Chris Thomas

The Taste of the NFL is a non-profit organization dedicated to kicking hunger in America by pairing up NFL’s best players with the country’s top chefs. The Taste of the NFL has been working to kick hunger, for the past 22 years raising over $14 million.

Their annual Super Bowl event, The Party with a Purpose® is always held on Saturday, the night before the game. This food and wine tasting event combines the efforts of hundreds of volunteers and is the most successful charitable, NFL-sanctioned event during Super Bowl week. All of the proceeds go directly to feed 37 million Americans through its support of food banks throughout the United States.

All 32 teams are represented by an NFL player and a chef from the city of that team. While the chef and their team prepare and serve guests a sample of food and a glass of wine, the NFL player talks to fans, signs autographs and poses for pictures. Throughout the evening the guests stroll from booth to booth to meet players from each team and to sample their exceptional cuisine. In addition to the food and wine, there were tables of silent and live auction items which included a football Hall of Fame enshrinement weekend package and a Costa Rican golf getaway.

Photo by Chris Thomas
Chris Draft
Photo by Chris Thomas

This was linebacker Chris Draft of the Atlanta Falcons fourth time at the event; three times with the Falcons and once with Panthers.  Atlanta was also represented by Chef Kevin Rathburn who prepared Moroccan-spiced Skuna Bay Salmon with cranberry cous cous paired with William Hill Napa Chardonnay.

Although Draft loves what the event does to provide for food banks, he doesn’t consider himself to be a great cook but knows when he’s hungry.“To really become a great culinary expert you need to take more time with the process than I do, I am more like, I’m hungry and I need some food.”

Will Witherspoon Photo by Chris Thomas
Will Witherspoon
Photo by Chris Thomas

For four years St Louis Rams linebacker Will Witherspoon has given his time to be at what he considers to be the premier event of the week. Witherspoon enjoys cooking as much as he likes eating,”I’m a big steak and potatoes guy, but bacon is on my list of things to get right this year, everybody loves bacon.”

The Rams booth featured a Lemon Maple Custard dish with shitake mushrooms and caviar by Missouri Chef Gerald Craft. As talented in his own kitchen as he is on the field Witherspoon listed his top five items everyone should have in their pantry as, “Pepper, sea salt, olive oil, red wine and rice or quinoa.”

Photo by Chris Thomas
Ken Dilger
Photo by Chris Thomas

Indianapolis Colts’ tight end and Super Bowl XXXVII winner Ken Dilger doesn’t cook very often and prefers to grill, luckily his wife is an excellent cook. “My favorite meal is my wife’s chicken tetrazzini, it is really outstanding.”

The Colt’s were also represented by Indianapolis Chef Gred Hardesty and his Winter Vegetable Boscht, Fischer Farms Oxtail and Crème Fraiche.

But we couldn’t go away without asking Dilger his thoughts on Peyton Manning getting traded by the Colts and ending up in the Super Bowl. “It was a tough situation, Peyton got hurt and Colts got a first pick in the draft and a guy named Andrew Luck comes along and it was a chance of a lifetime to draft a guy to back up Peyton.  All those things just fell in line this year.”

 Photo by Chris Thomas
Chester Pitts
Photo by Chris Thomas

Chester Pitts started every game he ever played in his eight years with the Houston Texans. Pitts has attended several Taste of the NFL events and is passionate about helping children and others in need in the Houston area through the Chester Pitts Foundation.  His favorite part of the event is seeing all the smiles of the guests. “I love seeing everyone smiling and the fact that we are giving back is the reason we’re here. It’s a great event and at the end of the day we are finding a way to kick the butt of hunger, and that’s what it’s all about”

Pitts is a big guy and likes to eat big food, “My favorite thing is a good burger and fries and ice cream, if I could eat ice cream every day, I absolutely would.”

The Texan’s dish, Paleo Shrimp Tacos with Kim Chi Coconut Sauce, fig chutney and cilanto mico greens was prepared by Houston Chef Bruce Moizan. The wine chosen to compliment the dish was Whitehaven Sauvignon Blanc.

Photo by Chris Thomas
Jack Youngblood with Pro Player Insiders
Photo by Chris Thomas

Jack Youngblood played for the Rams for 14 years, was All-Pro six times, played seven Pro bowls and got his Hall of Fame gold jacket in 2001. Paired with New York Chef Seamus Mullen, Youngblood was at the James Beard booth which featured Paella de Pato with D’Artagnan Foie Gras, winter vegetables, fig sofrito and duck jus.

Youngblood has attended all 22 previous Taste of the NFL events and does it to help the families in need.  “What better cause is there than to feed hungry children and I come to support my friends at Gallo winery, who are sponsors of this event.”

Youngblood says he loves to cook, and try new things. “I tried the Paella at our booth and it was so good I asked for the recipe but the chef said if he gave it to me he would have to shoot me.”

This year’s event was sold out again with more than 3,000 people in attendance and in excess of 7 million meals raised for food banks across the country.

Celebrities in attendance included, Actor Adam Richman, Celebrity Chef Alex Guarnaschelli, Model Carissa Rosario, hip hop Recording Artist, Common, Actress Condola Rashad, Entrepreneur, Daymond John, TV Personality Gayle King, Comedian Hannibal Buress, and Activist Rev. Jesse Jackson.

Taste of the NFL is dedicated to kicking hunger in every community all year round. Fans can help support their local community at any time by joining the Kick Hunger Challenge online and donate directly to their favorite team’s food bank. Every dollar raised will go directly to feed the hungry.

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