Cooking fundraiser celebrates 10th anniversary

LEAD Inc. announces the 10th anniversary for Leading Men Who Cook.  "We are proud that this event has become a community favorite and has raised over $150,000 for more than 30 local charities since our humble beginnings in 2014," shared CJ McAbee-Reher, LEAD Inc. board chair.


Ten years ago, a few local leaders bought into LEAD Inc.'s vision to host a cooking event fundraiser to support LEAD's YES! Network program.  Some of the first-year chefs include community leaders Dr. Courtney Gorman, Ed Merchant, Michael Belcher, Jim Allbaugh, Darren Reese, Michael Hotz, Dennis Roach, Eric Walts, Brad Luzadder, Tim Eckerle, Scott Murphy, Don Howlett and Dr. Srikanth.  Charlie Wallace led the chefs out for the first ever Chef Parade to start the event, then he waived the Italian flag at the end of the evening when he won the inaugural Champion Chef title for raising the most tips (donations) in 2014 for his Italian dish.    


Professional Chef David Kay, the Grant County Convention & Visitors Bureau, Saint Paul Catholic Parish, and Jeannie Walts were instrumental in helping the LEAD Inc. Board plan the first event, which is a completely volunteer effort.  Other key volunteers in the early years included Jennifer Lane-Riefler, Katie Powell, Raphael McAbee-Reher, Tim George, Mike Cline, Ed Breen, Alicia Hazelwood, and the official tip counting team from Northwest Bank that continues to volunteer for the event today.  


In the third year LEAD Inc. changed the fundraiser to not just benefit LEAD Inc.  Each chef began selecting their favorite local charity and 100% of their tips are passed to the charity by LEAD Inc.  "This is when the event really took off," said Dianne Harris board member and event planner.  "We feel the event now truly fulfills our mission.  We are about growing leadership and the community.  We benefit by hosting the event, but we now have an avenue to help not only LEAD Inc. but allow up to 30 other organizations hold mini fundraisers through our event."


This year's event is Saturday, November 4 from 58 pm at the new Covenant Place Event Center. 30+ volunteer "chefs" are trying to unseat three-time Champion Chef, Shane Laubach, who raises money for the Hostess House.  Each chef is a center of influence in the Grant County community and will serve their dish, earning tips (donations) from friends and guests in the process. Tip monies will benefit the nonprofit organization of their choice. Tip jars are already open at and through Facebook and will conclude with a tip jar at each chef’s serving station the night of the event. 

A group of secret judges coordinated by Kari Persinger will be back in action judging the food prepared by all the men, women and teen chefs.  They will select the favorite dish awards and present trophies for the best appetizer, side dish, entrée, dessert, and overall favorite dish.  These awards are presented to the chefs just before the unveiling of the Champion Chef and top tip jar winners.


“We are excited to use LEAD Inc.’s premier annual event to not only support our leadership programs but also to benefit local charities who do so much to make our community better. Plus, the food is incredible!  I know that I’m going to participate and compete for the Champion Chef award,” said returning chef, founding board member and Leadership Grant County volunteer facilitator, Tim Harris.  Harris, Chef Michael Belcher, and Chef Tom Gearhart have participated since the event's inception.    


This year there will be a cash bar, fun games, a live auction, photo opportunities and one of the best meals you’ll get in central Indiana. To attend, sponsor, volunteer, or become a chef for this year’s event, visit the website: or contact Dianne Harris at 765.661.3071 or any LEAD Inc. Board Member. Individual tickets are $35.  A full table of 8 is available for $250.  Sponsorships range from $500 to $1,500.


LEAD Inc. will also be celebrating the 40th anniversary of Leadership Grant County, the adult leadership class that was previously sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce and has been led by LEAD Inc for more than 15 years.


LEAD Inc. has been serving Grant County since 1993, offering adult and youth leadership programs with the vision of preparing the next generation of community leaders and volunteers for Grant County.