2012-02-15 / Front Page

A Taste of Burke County

Restaurants shine at benefit gala
By Elizabeth Billips lizbillips@yahoo.com

Good food, good cause.

That’s what Burke County restaurant owners are promising for next Saturday night’s “A Taste of Burke County.”

The eighth annual food-focused gala will benefit Wimberly House Ministries and the 11 programs the non-profit center provides to the community.

Last year, more than $45,000 was netted from the 1,000- plus supporters who came to back the ecumenical program and sample all the savories and sweets.

“The friendly competition between restaurants makes for extraordinary food,” Wimberly House volunteer Chris Mann says, recalling last year’s varieties of shrimp and beef. “It doesn’t get any better anywhere … for anyone. The food is exceptional.”

Good Day CafĂ© owner Mark Atkinson, who is returning for his sixth go-round, says it’s a night for chefs to show the community just what they can do.

For him and Good Day chef Travis Sperry, that means the better part of their Saturday will be spent preparing wild game, seafood and desserts.

While they haven’t nailed down the specifics, they know they’ll be making lots of it. Last year, their table was swamped with people sampling bacon wrapped shrimp and their signature chocolate chip bread pudding. It was the same story with the quail and pheasant they served in 2009.

“I’m glad to do it ... Wimberly House is a great benefit to the community,” Mark says, referring to the nonprofit’s after school program and outreach program for senior citizens.”The community needs the services they are providing.”

Mark’s goodwill nearly always comes back around, and his Wimberly House exposure is generally followed by a spike in business.

Pitmaster Jimmie Golden has seen it happen as well.

A Taste of Burke County is one of the few events in Waynesboro where he and his wife Patti can get a captive crowd of 1,000 lined up to taste the slow-smoked barbeque, Brunswick stew and fried pork skins they serve at their restaurant, Big Oak BBQ.

They’ll put more than 40 hours and 45 pounds of pork into the affair, but Jimmie maintains it’s a two-way street where that money and effort are concerned.

“Helping Wimberly House and helping our business go hand in hand,” he says, in preparation for his fourth year at the gala. “Wimberly House has some really good programs. And their event is the best advertisement around.”

In the weeks after, Big Oak usually gets a surge of catering callbacks from people who fixed plates and picked up business cards during the event. Many of them, Jimmie says, may never have otherwise driven to his barbeque dive, which is out on Highway 23 near Plant Vogtle.

The same holds true for Avery’s Country Store and Catering, which is 10 miles southeast of Waynesboro in the Alexander community.

“We’re out here in the county but we’re not a bunch of country bumpkins,” owner J.J. Jones laughs as he ticks off the gourmet creations he’ll bring from his sweet shop.” It’s a good chance to showcase what we can do.”

While his wife Valerie focuses on savories from their restaurant and catering business, J.J. will be caramelizing sugar and melting chocolates for his famous divinities, pralines and hand-dipped peanuts, cashews and pecans.

And like the others, he says helping Wimberly House is what it’s all about.

“The work they do is good, and they’re in it for the right reasons,” J.J. says. “That’s why we started supporting them from first time they asked.”

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