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North Shelby Baptist makes ‘wow statement’ in community with cooking competitioncomment (0)

May 31, 2012

By Julie Payne

North Shelby Baptist makes ‘wow statement’ in community with cooking competition

Savory smoked meats, scrumptious soups and decadent desserts were available at every turn. Smiling cooks eager to share their culinary creations heaped generous servings of their foods onto plates for each passerby to enjoy. Such was the scene May 5 at North Shelby Baptist Church, Birmingham, at the first annual Taste of the South cooking competition.

Under sunny skies, throngs of attendees wove in and out from under the covered tents of the cooking competitors. Each competitor was vying for top place in his or her respective food category: chicken, ribs, “other” meats, soups and stews, desserts and lagniappe (foods that did not apply to any other category).

Dana Polk, a member of the Shelby Baptist Association church since 2005, was a cooking participant in team Pork-A-Dot. Stationed with her husband and daughter, she served portions of her flavorful cornbread — cooked in a pan on the grill — and meat to enthusiastic tasters.

“I’ve been doing the cornbread for a while,” Polk said as she served hungry spectators. “This is the first cooking event I’ve ever done,” she noted. “It always tastes better when you know you’re cooking it for somebody else.”

The endless array of tasty foods to sample, good music, door prizes and fellowship — all set up in the North Shelby Baptist parking lot — were there for a purpose: to reach the community with the love of Christ.

Mateo Melendez, associate pastor for North Shelby Baptist, was a primary organizer of Taste of the South. He said the church had put on a large Easter pageant for years and it wanted to do “something new” for the community. 

The idea of a community-wide event developed into combining a fun, festival atmosphere with a cooking competition — one that would be conducive to reaching all ages. “We thought if we worked at having a variety of foods and a variety of flavors, it would be welcoming to everybody,” Melendez explained. “Everybody likes to eat and cooking shows are so popular right now, so we just thought for sure that [it] would be something everybody would enjoy.”

The day was free to attendees and cooks did not have to pay an entry fee to participate. The cooking competitors included members of the church as well as “friends and neighbors,” Melendez said. 

A panel of five judges, all members of North Shelby Baptist, sat inside the fellowship hall to judge each food entry. Awards included first, second and third place trophies, and the grand prize trophy was dubbed “The People’s Choice” award. 

In conjunction to the tasting event, a fundraiser took place near the entrance of the church. The fundraiser was made possible by the North Shelby Baptist disaster relief team’s meat-smoking unit. More than 400 pieces of meat, including Boston butts and ribs, were cooked to perfection on seven smokers. The proceeds from those sales went to benefit the church’s upcoming high school ministry missions trip to Guatemala and middle school missions trip to Kentucky.

Billy Graham, North Shelby Baptist church member and head of the church’s disaster relief ministry, was instrumental in connecting the fundraiser to the Taste of the South event. “We’re located on Highway 280, south of Double Oak Mountain, and we probably have 25,000 cars pass by every couple of hours,” Graham noted of the church’s location. “We wanted to make a wow statement in the community, invite them in and let Jesus be seen through us.”

In addition to Graham’s desire that the church be a “shining light on a hill to the community” through the event, Melendez said the church benefited from the event’s organization and planning process.

“There was a real emphasis on praying through each [planning] task — that was kind of a renewed … passion for our church,” Melendez said. “That was really … part of the goal also — we wanted our church members to be excited about reaching the community and … praying over the event.” 

Melendez hopes Taste of the South turns into a yearly outreach and that it opens the door for more partnerships in the future. “We really see it just continuing to grow and [to] be a good outreach event for north Shelby County,” he said.

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