By David Leone
WAKE FOREST — Good gravy! The Shore Grief Center has cooked up a competition that puts the definition of comfort food to the test.
This Sunday at the Wake Forest Cotton Company event gallery, attendees of the 2nd annual Comfort Food Cook Off get to chow down on brisket, baked ziti and other foods and then vote on which restaurateur has satisfied them the most.
The event will help raise money for the nonprofit center, which conducts grief counseling for adults, teens and children.
“I love to see my friends and Shore Grief Center supporters and past group attendees at this event,” center founder and director Carolyn Zhanow says. “I hope even more people will come to Wake Forest to join me this year for comfort food which soothes the soul and delights the taste buds.”
Until last month, the center had no physical address. Counseling sessions were held at area churches, though availability was limited.
“I couldn’t hold all the groups I wanted to hold,” Zhanow says.
But the center is now located in downtown Wake Forest at 116 Brooks St. (across from Doc’s Garage).
The fundraiser will allow the purchase of “much needed furnishings for the new location,” according to Zhanow.
That will give her the ability to host one or two group sessions weekly, she says.
Zhanow, who lost her son to suicide, dreamed up the fundraiser three years ago on her birthday thinking about her own comfort food — a Stouffer’s frozen dinner called Grandma’s Chicken and Rice Bake.
What’s on the menu?
Participating restaurants include:
•215 Smokehouse, Louisburg (last year’s winner),
•My Place Restaurant, Wake Forest,
•The Fire Pit, Wake Forest,
•Big Al’s BBQ, Rolesville,
•LaForesta Italian Café and Pizzeria, Wake Forest,
•The Angus Barn, Raleigh, providing dessert, and
•Zaxby’s, Wake Forest, providing iced tea.
“Last year was our first cookoff. It went good and everybody enjoyed it,” says Zhanow, estimating there were approximately 70 attendees. “We had shrimp and grits and brisket, two kinds of pasta and dessert from the Angus Barn. It was way tasty. Most gave me more than a sample.”
The center provides a salad to go with the meals. Big Al’s will be bringing beef brisket and pork ribs and La Foresta baked ziti. Not all of the restaurant competitors have shared what they’re bringing this year, which is part of the competition’s mystique, according to Zhanow, adding, “They’re being secretive.”
Bids and bragging rights
Food is available for tasting from 6 to 8 p.m. The winner of the best comfort food will be announced at 8:15 p.m., after all the votes have been tallied.
The winning restaurant receives bragging rights as well as a trophy from the Shore Grief Center.
There will also be a silent auction, raffle baskets and a photography show.
Auction items include N.C. Symphony Summerfest tickets, Milton’s Pizza gift certificates, art and photography from local artists and a $90 Otterbox gift certificate. College fans can bid on N.C. State and UNC-Chapel Hill baskets.
Winning bidders will be announced at 8:30 p.m.
A glass of wine or beer is included in the adult ticket price.
The cost is $35 for adults and $15 for teens and no charge for children 12 and under. Purchase tickets at bit.ly/cookoff2015 or at the door.