My top issue may be creating healthy relationships and love in the kitchen, however my top charity is Share Our Strength Share Our Strength raises money to help feed the 17 million children in America who go hungry most days.  While most receive food through their community schools, they return to homes with little or no food.  This becomes even more critical during school vacations.  As we know, malnourished children become ill, don’t develop healthy bodies and can’t learn in school.

While it may seem odd to raise money for food with an abundance of food, that is what we do in Central Florida once each year.  Share Our Strength hosts A Taste of the Nation, the country’s largest Foodie event.  Local chefs donate their food and efforts to create dozens of fabulous small food venues within a giant ballroom.  Hotels, wine outlets, cooking schools, an airline, and local sports teams and celebrities all donate items for both a live and a silent auction, adding to the night’s revenue for programs to feed our neediest children.

I attended with another Foodie friend, Renee, who is able to eat a wider variety of foods than I.  Since the evening was heavily concentrated on the red meats I don’t eat, it was terrific to learn about those preparations from her while I stuck to seafood, vegetables and a few fabulous deserts.   We paced ourselves and kept our intake down so we could taste a wide variety of foods and still zip our skirts the next morning.

Universal Studios got our Best Of Show Award.

We made up our own awards for Best Venue Design (Red Wing), Best Seafood (Spencer Hilton), Best Presentation (Universal Studios), Most Inventive (Universal Studios), Best Beef (Creekstone Farms), Best “Foreign” Food (Bosphorous Turkish Cuisine), Most Unexpected (Red Wing’s Elk Stroganoff over Spaetzle) Best Desert (Universal Studios), ect.  The longest line was for Sushi Pop, and we didn’t get to sample those.  While waiting for the line to shorten, they ran out!  Emeril’s Tchomp Chop had a wonderful little bite of S-more on a stick, which was easy to eat while waiting for our next tiny meal.  Even though everyone did a great job, overall, we thought Universal Studios did the most outstanding job of presenting great food and an actual “experience.”

Happy Volunteers added to a great event.

The evening’s finale was a live, on-stage chefs’ competition.  It was wonderful to see each chef presented with food and how different the results were.  There were probably 50 chefs gathered to watch and cheer with the rest of us, adding to the energy of the event.

Yes, it was a night filled with energy and open pockets.  As you might suspect, people who are gathering to make sure hungry children are fed are quite a lovely bunch.  There were thousands of attendees, volunteers, chef’s and food servers.  The vibe was high and joyful.  Something we were not expecting was how young the average age was.  Just a guess, even though this was an over-21 event, the average age was probably 30-35-years old.  It was an expensive ticket, so I am thrilled to see that so many young adults have made giving to others a priority in their lives.

Chef in competition at A Taste of the Nation

On every level, the evening was a success.  Besides feeding all five of my senses, this joyful gathering fed my soul.

I guess it was a Tantra Cooking night after all.