The Lake Eva Banquet Hall will serve to host the Gourmet Gents event on Feb. 26. (Photo by Steve Schwartz).

HAINES CITY – When planning a social event, Seretha S. Tinsley knows, timing can be everything.
So when Tinsley and her organization put together a social program for Sunday, Feb. 26 in Haines City – and one that requires the involvement of a lot of men – they ran into one small problem: a little competing event called the Orlando Magic hosting the NBA All-Star Game on the same day.
“A lot of men want to go to the game,” Tinsley said. “So one of the things we’re planning on doing this year is we called the NBA to find out what activities would be taking place between 2-4, the hours we’re doing this. If we find out something big is happening, we’ll be putting a big screen outside there so the men can see what’s going on.”
What she’s hoping, though, is that she finds a lot more men interested in cooking than in basketball. That’s the hope, in any case, and Tinsley is still optimistic there are plenty of guys out there who love preparing a meal for a wide audience.
Even with the NBA game happening on the same day, Tinsley predicted “We will have chefs from every city in Polk County. Last year we had 110 chefs.”
The organization that Tinsley belongs to is the Polk County chapter of the National Coalition of 100 Black Woman Inc., which is hosting its annual fund-raising event known as the 9th Annual Gourmet Gents. It will be held on Sunday, Feb. 26 at the Lake Eva Banquet Hall at 799 Johns Ave. in Haines City. Tickets are $35 for adults and $15 for children 12 and under. To purchase tickets, call 863-299-7177.
This is a food tasting event, similar to the Taste of Haines City or Taste of Winter Haven feasts that are held annually, to let area residents sample the kind of meals that local restaurants can whip up in their kitchens.
This one is a little bit different, though. This organization dedicated to empowering women and young girls is looking to the men in the community for some assistance – and some culinary talent.
“We have men in our community, the whole Polk County area — and we even have one chef coming in from Disney – and these are professional men who want to just give back,” she said, adding that guests can expect a wide variety of meals to be served.

“They will prepare 20 to 30 servings,” she said. “It will be more than enough food being served. The food goes from cakes to pig’s feet to sushi. You’d be surprised – it’s ribs, greens, you name it. All the gents are registering right now.”
The men will be showing off their culinary skills while donning a chef’s hat and apron, and offering tasty samples of their secret recipes against a backdrop of music, entertainment and door prizes.
“We extend an invitation to professional men in the community,” Tinsley said. “Those men then agree to prepare food, usually their best culinary piece, for about 25 to 30 people. We normally have about 100 chefs who will be cooking that day.”
The men are also doing this for a good cause, she added.
“All of the proceeds go to give scholarships to young girls,” Tinsley said. “This is the first time we’ve scheduled it for Haines City. Usually it’s in Winter Haven.”
But Haines City’s spacious new banquet hall was the perfect location for an event like this, she added.
“People from the community pay to come in and go from booth to booth, for the taste of different cities,” she said. “But this time it’s the men in the community who come out to support our efforts.”
And that cause, she added, is all about working for and assisting other women.
“We advocate on behalf of black women and girls, and on behalf of women in generation,” she said. “The national organization has been around for 30 years. It was started in New York. The Polk County chapter has been around for about 10 years, and this is a Polk County event. Our chapter covers the whole Polk County area.”
The organization puts a spotlight on issues that impact women, including health care. This year, their focus is on how women are impacted by HIV and AIDS.
“We have certain national focuses,” she said. “We have health, education, economic development, and youth. We have mentor programs for young girls. The women in the organization mentor young woman and teach them how to be ladies. The way we advocate is we are very active in the community. We have programs and events that will affect change.”
That includes helping women cope with the economic downturn in the past few years, she added.
“We deal with economic development,” Tinsley said, adding that since the recession and housing market crisis started in 2008, “Our mission has not changed. We’ve always advocated finding strong networks for women, and trying to expose women to various elements for economic development. It makes our mission even more viable today.”

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