The 24th annual Gourmet Guys, held Friday night at the Attleboro Elks Lodge, has become a favorite pre-Thanksgiving November tradition of mine for a couple of reasons: It's about men making a collective statement that all forms of abuse against families and women are wrong, and the people who organize it are always grateful for whatever time their volunteers are able to give.
This year, not only were our area state senators, Richard Ross, R-Wrentham, and James Timilty, D-Walpole, on hand, but so was U.S. Rep. Joseph Kennedy III, D-Brookline, whose appearance at an event to benefit New Hope on the 50th anniversary of the assassination of his great uncle speaks volumes both about the event and Kennedy's commitment to his family's record of community service.
That's because the dinner helps New Hope do its job, which is to reach out to women and families affected by domestic violence. Friday was my 20th year serving dinner, and one of the reasons I enjoy returning is because a natural sense of camaraderie has grown up among the chefs to the point where the event feels like a reunion. I discussed what the event means to two of those chefs and the event's emcee, who agreed to be interviewed by email.
PERSONAL - He's 49 and works as a salesman in coolers and freezers for the American Insulated Panel Co. He lives in Taunton with his wife Linda.
HISTORY WITH EVENT - This was his second year. "My friend Gary Hasson asked if I would like to help out (last year). I was more than happy to donate my time when learning of how good the organization New Hope is. Knowing I am able to just give a small amount of my time to help make a big difference is a great feeling."
HIS DISH - He made cacoila (Portuguese pulled pork), "an old world Portuguese recipe that takes a long time in the oven (3 to 4 hours); that is the trick that infuses all the exotic flavors into the meat."
PERSONAL - He's 54 and works at Sensata Technologies as a technical staff engineer. He and his wife Melinda Kwart live in Attleboro with Gabriel, 19 and Adrian 18.
HISTORY WITH THE EVENT - "This is my first year, but I have heard from friends at Sensata for the last couple of years that they have been doing it and that it is both a good cause and a good time."
HIS DISH - "I make a chili that has evolved over the years to include pancetta, peanut butter, Asian chili sauces ... to add extra dimensions of heat and flavor. It doesn't really have a name, but it is something I make through the colder seasons of the year and is a Super Bowl favorite."
PERSONAL - He's 49 and works in marketing and public relations for Dean Bank. He's a North Attleboro native, but lives now lives with his wife Tina in North Providence with their children Patrick, 24, Michael, 22, Devin, 21, and Alyssa, 19.
"My family and I have made it a Thanksgiving-time tradition for the past six years and we look forward to it annually," said Carroll, who grew up in the Attleboro area and attended Bishop Feehan High School (Class of 1982).
"I've been volunteering at New Hope for about seven years. I first served on a committee that helped plan another New Hope fundraiser and soon after was asked to consider filling an opening on their board of directors," a post he's held for five years.
HISTORY OF THE EVENT - This was his fourth year as emcee. "I've learned in life never to say no if asked to help others. It's been a pleasure. I believe that I have a unique perspective, as both a local person and as a director. I can connect with many of my friends, colleagues and classmates while carrying the message of support for the critical programs the agency provides to thousands of clients each year."
While Carroll, as emcee, doesn't cook, his feelings about Gourmet Guys run deep.
"Over the past few years, I've been able to convince some of my male co-workers to help form the Dean Team and become a Gourmet Guy. I'm thrilled that this year our new incoming President and CEO Kevin Goffe will make his second appearance as a Gourmet Guy."
Gourmet Guys, for Carroll, "echoes back to the early days of New Hope. We can carry the message to our most-enduring supporters in a way that is comfortable, familiar and fun."
Carroll calls the event's success "a tribute to the generosity of those that support it through sponsorships as well as attendance. As a director, I'd love to be able to bottle the Gourmet Guys formula and replicate it some of the other communities we serve. I don't believe it would do nearly as well, though. Gourmet Guys succeeds because of its local appeal and its legacy."
LARRY KESSLER is a Sun Chronicle local news editor. You may reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.