Cookin' for Comfort with the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Southern West Virginia

By Candace Nelson - 9:49 PM

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Cookin' for Comfort
 is a brand-new event from the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Southern West Virginia that pits two local chefs against one another in a competition to elevate their favorite childhood meal - all while helping raise funds for the nonprofit. 

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Held this evening, this incredible event featured Chef Paul Smith, a James Beard semifinalist and chef at 1010 Bridge, and Chef John Wright, formerly of Bridge Road Bistro and current co-owner of The Pitch in Kanawha City cooking in the kitchen at the Ronald McDonald House, and I was fortunate to be one of the judges alongside Steven Keith, the Food Guy, and Chris Miller, of Dutch Miller.

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What is the Ronald McDonald House, you may ask? "Since 1985, RMHC of Southern West Virginia has been providing housing, support, and community so families with sick children can stay together. That is 38 years of making a tremendous impact on the lives of pediatric patients and their families in Southern West Virginia. Your support is a vital part of helping us deliver comfort and care to children and their families."

Cookin for Comfort

This event has a few different layers. First, folks can purchase tickets to the event, which included hors d'oeuvres, an open bar and a gift bag. Some of those delicious snacks included 1010 Bridge favorites like: potato souffles (one of my favorite bites in all of town), cheeseburger sliders (a la McDonald's sauce), pimento cheese cups, chips, bacon-covered dates, cupcakes, cookies and more. 

Cookin for Comfort

Leading up to the event, folks were able to cast votes toward the "People's Choice" Chef Award by donating $5 online in support of their favorite chef. At the event, folks were also able to donate $5 in person - either cash or by dipping their card - toward their favorite chef. 

Cookin for Comfort

How they determined that was a few different ways - whether they were friends, whether they liked the concept of the dish or if they were able to sample some of the dishes from the chefs from the two additional plates they created for communal tasting. So, let's get to those dishes.

Cookin for Comfort

Chef Paul talked about Pizza Hut dinner nights and eating Buzz-Buttered Steaks growing up. So, he opted to create a jazzed-up patty melt using those same Buzz-Butter Steaks.

Chef John talked about how an Italian dish from his neighbor was near and dear to his heart, so he opted for a mushroom & lamb sausage crepe.

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One item they both had to use was jicama. The secret ingredient was revealed to the chefs 30 minutes into  the competition and was selected by the public when they donated to the website. 


We judged the dishes on taste, presentation and creativity. It was a close call, truthfully. The judges went back and forth a few times. Here are some of my overall thoughts:

Cookin for Comfort

Chef Paul's dish was big and bright and beautiful and had some nice crunch and freshness. The ramp ranch was a lovely extra touch. His Buzz-Buttered Steak was elevated with white American cheese, fresh lettuce, tomato, onion, jicama and some mac sauce. 

Cookin for Comfort

Chef John's dish was really creative with housemade lamb sausage, a rich cream sauce and a lovely crunch from fried jicama fries. The sausage had a great flavor that paired beautifully with fresh local mushrooms from Hernshaw Farms and some dried morels. 

Cookin for Comfort

They were both delicious, but Chef John came out on top for the judge's choice, and Chef Paul came out on top for people's choice. 

But, at the end of the day, the real goal was to help support what the Ronald McDonald House is doing. RMHC provides a crucial service for families who are facing significant challenges in their lives, and a warm meal, a cozy bed and a private space can provide a world of difference. From collecting and donating pop tabs to helping to cook dinner, I have volunteered for this organization because it holds a special place in my heart and truly makes a difference for those who need it most.

When children must travel long distances to access top medical care, accommodations for families can be expensive or not readily available. The charity helps families stay close to their ill or injured children, increasing the caregivers’ ability to spend more time with their child, to interact with their clinical care team, and to participate in critical medical care decisions. That is one less stress these folks have to consider. 

McDonald’s support extends from monetary contributions and volunteerism, to cause related marketing promotions and the space to place RMHC Donation Boxes and Round-Up For RMHC that raises money for Chapters around the world. Although the McDonald’s system is the largest corporate partner,
RMHC is a non-profit 501(c)(3) corporation, relying on the support of the entire community and other corporate partners.

Here are some easy ways to give or click here: ndqasmhh28xc4ouqfa637a0a

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