Heavenly dishes compete at ministers cook-off

(Miscellany/Terry Cregar) Father H. Gregory West, administrator of St. Andrew Church in Clemson, serves some of his gumbo at the eighth annual Ministers’ Cook-Off recently.

(Miscellany/Terry Cregar) Father H. Gregory West, administrator of St. Andrew Church in Clemson, serves some of his gumbo at the eighth annual Ministers’ Cook-Off recently.CENTRAL—People got a jump on the holiday eating season Nov. 11 and at the same time generated much-needed cash for a local relief agency. More than 200 people filled the cafeteria at D.W. Daniel High School, a public school in Pickens County, for the eighth annual Ministers’ Cook-Off.

Pastors from 20 churches in Anderson, Pickens and Oconee counties — including St. Andrew Church in Clemson and its two missions, St. Paul the Apostle in Seneca and St. Francis in Walhalla — participated in the event to benefit Safe Harbor II in Anderson County.

Tables lined the walls at the school’s cafeteria, where for $1 guests could sample a variety of culinary delights: two-bean chili prepared by Morton White, pastor at Pendleton Presbyterian Church; Pumpkin Patch Gospel Soup served up by Carol Ann Phillips Marshall from Episcopal Church of the Ascension in Clemson; and a traditional Brunswick stew from Kurt McPherson of Mt. Zion United Methodist Church in Central.

Desserts to satisfy everyone’s sweeter side included Devil’s Delight Brownies, which were prepared by Nancy Morris, pastor at Seneca Presbyterian; and an apple cake from Zackary Johnson of Goldenview Baptist Church in Clemson.

Father H. Gregory West, administrator of the three Catholic parishes, brought a Lowcountry gumbo called Charleston Okra and Tomato Pilau, pronounced per’-lo, minus much of its traditional spiciness to suit the discriminating crowd.

The priest said he grew up on Sullivan’s Island and the dish was a staple in his family.

“I left out most of the Tobasco sauce,” Father West said as he handed out cup samples with help from Danny Roberts, a parishioner.

The cook-off was a first for Father West, who was assigned to  the three parishes earlier this year.

“It’s exciting to see the area’s entire religious community involved in something like this,” he said. “I guess you could call it culinary evangelization.”

Judy White, who dressed in a cape while handing out Devil’s Delight Brownies from the Seneca Presbyterian Church table, said “first and foremost, we’re here to help Safe Harbor II.”

“The food is great, but the real joy is seeing the community spirit of working together for people in need,” she said.

According to its brochure, Safe Harbor provides shelter, counseling, advocacy and support for domestic violence victims and their children. It is in Greenville, Anderson, Pickens and Oconee counties. It staffs and operates shelters in Greenville and Anderson. The agency is funded through the United Way, government grants and private foundations, and through community fundraisers such as the cook-off.

Greta Young, assistant director for Safe Harbor, said money from the cook-off is especially important given the current state of the local economy.

“We really count on this event each year, especially when private donations are down like they are,” Young said. “It means a lot to us.”

Last year, the cook-off raised about $7,000.

Clemson Area Congregations in Touch formed 34 years ago as a mechanism for clergy and laypersons of different faiths to address common problems. One of its first efforts involved helping Safe Harbor in Greenville open Safe Harbor II in Anderson.

Joyce Klein, who has been with the organization since its beginning and served two years as president, said final numbers were not available. But, she added, local sponsorship was up from last year, and there were more food tables than ever before.

“It was a total ecumenical effort this year,” she said.