By Taylor Rexrode
Waco celebrities will get together Friday to celebrate education, potluck style.
The Waco ISD Education Foundation will host its seventh annual H-E-B Celebrity Cook-Off from 7 to 10 p.m. Friday at the McLennan Community College Conference Center.
Waco celebrities, including McLennan County Sheriff Parnell McNamara and Jim and Nell Hawkins, namesakes for the newly dedicated Indoor Tennis Center—will cook unique dishes at home and serve them to guests at the event. A secret panel of judges will vote on dishes for creativity and taste. A people’s choice award will be given to the chef who raises the most money for the Education Foundation.
Amber George, coordinator of community resources for the Waco ISD Education Foundation, said many celebrity chefs bring in creative dishes from a variety of cooking styles.
“We had a crawfish bread pudding a couple years ago,” George said. “We have apple bacon turnovers, bacon-wrapped water chestnuts. You never know what someone is going to bring. It’s a big surprise of everything in the room.”
This year, tables of eight at the celebrity cook-off sold for $1,200. The event raised more than $67,000 last year, and George said she hopes that expanding the event next year will raise even more funds for Waco ISD.
“Our community is very supportive of education,” George said. “We sold out of tables six weeks ahead of time this year, which is really shocking. Next year we are looking to go a little larger.”
Nell Hawkins, co-founder of Baylor “Gold Rush,” said she enjoys the camaraderie of Wacoans getting together to help Waco schools.
Gold Rush is a campaign to encourage students to show support at athletic events by wearing their Gold Rush shirts.
“Everybody is so happy when they come,” Hawkins said. “Every year has gotten bigger and better. It’s the most fun time and it’s for a great cause.”
Guests at the event will be able to participate in a live auction for vacation packages, a custom-made playhouse and other donated items. Every guest will be entered in a raffle to win a $10,000 H-E-B gift card or a new car from Allen Samuels Fiat.
The Waco ISD Education Foundation has been raising funds for classroom and teacher grants since 1999.
Grants help Waco schools with early childhood education, advanced academics for accelerated students, student performance and staff development.