Food for thought

‘18 Men Who Cook’ wasn’t just about food; it was about bringing the fine arts into focus

There was chili, smoked jerk chicken sliders, Alaskan salmon, ribs, baklava, linguini with clam sauce, lemon bars and lasagna. Don’t forget the Caprese salad, the tomato basil soup, a thick vegetable curry and homemade chicken and noodles. Oh, and how could I forget the pork sliders and fruit kabobs, the jalepeño appetizers, cabbage salad, the orange and radish salad or those delectable Buckeyes.

All of these gastronomical delights were on the menu last weekend during the inaugural “18 Men Who Cook” fundraising event — a community gathering to raise awareness and funds for the Orpheum in downtown Marshalltown.

Nearly 250 people packed the Orpheum’s Black Box Theater to sample these homemade goodies, as well as imbibe wine and beer, listen to incredible live music and bid on a variety of silent auction items.

And while the food was outstanding (David Barajas’ Canelitas de Guanajuato with cinnamon ice cream was nothing short of masterful), the event was never really about the culinary skills of the 18 men who volunteered their time and talents. Instead, it was a way for the community to rally in support of the Orpheum — a true fine arts gem here in Marshalltown.

The fundraiser was the brainchild of Orpheum Theater Center Director Bob Untiedt and Friends of the Orpheum Board Chairwoman Fauna Nord, who along with several others, essentially turned a potluck dinner into a culinary celebration.

The money raised that night (nearly $10,000 before expenses) will help the Orpheum cover equipment costs and live music expenses for upcoming performances the theater plans to showcase this year and beyond.

You see, while it was a great deal of fun for foodies to partake of delicious recipes, what’s even more impressive are that the participants and those who attended the fundraiser have a real hunger for quality entertainment. And to Bob’s credit, as well as the Iowa Valley Community College District, the Friends board and others, the Orpheum is truly an entertainment must-see.

There have been several community events and live musical performances this year that have delighted audience members. And the Orpheum promises even more opportunities for the community to see films, documentaries, more live music with the “Live After Five” series this summer and public events that enlighten and inform.

Food, like the dishes that were served last weekend, feeds our bodies and tantalizes the taste buds.

But the fine arts, community events and those offerings provided by the Orpheum, feed our minds and our souls. The arts are the touchstone to our collective humanity. Not to have those experiences, like those presented at the Orpheum and other venues in Marshalltown, would be like serving a bland piece of toast for dinner.

I told Fauna that I would volunteer again in 2018 for the next culinary extravaganza, although I’m not sure what else I can serve besides lasagna (I may have a decent recipe for chicken and wild rice casserole).

Regardless of what I might serve up, or other sure-to-be delicious fare that will be featured, let’s hope the community can again come together to provide a little sustenance for this jewel in downtown Marshalltown and support fine arts in the community.


Contact Jeff Hutton at 641-753-6611 or