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NORTH BEND — Local community member’s cheered loudly as they began counting down the final seconds left in the second round of the Oregon Coast Community Action’s first annual Iron Chef Benefit Fundraiser at the North Bend Community Center, Saturday. 

The event featured three chefs from around Coos Bay to compete against one another in a cooking competition an effort to raise funds and awareness to the programs offered by ORCCA.

ORCCA development director, Sara Stephens said ORCCA helps over 38,000 residents each year with their programs and services. The South Coast Food Share program at ORCCA, which was founded 1965, provides hunger relief to residents in Coos and Curry counties and is part of the Oregon Food Bank Network all working together to help end food hunger. Stephens said it is the largest regional food bank on the South Coast.

“We focus on programs that are going to help alleviate poverty and create a community that is thriving for all people,” said Stephens. “Every fund we raise will go back to our organization to help support our programs.”

For its inaugural fundraiser, ORCCA decided to base their event off of a popular T.V. show known as Iron Chef, where contestants are expected to turn out well-rounded dishes with a few challenges thrown at them and a tight time restriction. Stephens said they gave each contestant the same box of ingredients, which turned out to be items commonly found in their emergency food boxes they hand out.

The contestants were given 30 minutes for their first round and about an hour for their second round. They were to incorporate a secret ingredient that was later revealed to be tuna and eggs. The contestants included Karen Owlsley of Restaurant O, John Beane of So It Goes Coffeehouse and Greg Marshall of the Elkhorn BBQ and Food Truck.

The judges for the event included Timm Slater from the Bay Area Chamber of Commerce, Clay Rasley from Canard Labs and Emily Scotland of Waterfall Clinic. After scoring each dish based on overall taste and flavoring, presentation and creativity it was decided that Karen Owlsley was the night’s winner.

“I had a lot of fun,” said Owlsley. “It’s extremely important we all come together as a community and take care of each other.”

Owlsley said she thought hard and pulled from her experience and memories of cooking in the kitchen with her grandmother and mother to think of dishes to make. She presented a tuna wrap with peach salsa and a play on breakfast and Thanksgiving dish for her second.   

The event also featured a range of silent auction items, ORCCA presented to visitors as another way to raise funds. Some of the items included a tuna fishing trip, jet boat ride and restaurant gift certificates. The event sold over 5,000 tickets and raised over $7,000 for their programs.

Executive director of ORRCA Mike Lehman said he hopes to have this fundraiser each year. He stressed the importance of getting the word out of all the programs ORCCA has to offer in addition to its food resources but to connect people to their range of services.

“We are looking for partnerships and collaborations,” said Lehman. “That’s really when we do our best work.”

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