By David Gignilliat
There may be a few new Iron Chefs in Prince William County come December. If you’re a fan of the Food Network, or the near-infinite amount of culinary competitions that abound on television, you will truly enjoy
the upcoming Gourmet Guys Give Back, a family-friendly competition and charity event that will be held on Sunday, Dec. 8 from 1 to 3:30 p.m. at the Linton Hall School in Bristow, Virginia. Proceeds benefit the programs and activities of Leadership Prince William (LPW) and the Prince William Chamber of Commerce. These two community organizations nurture local leadership, support the business and non-profit community, provide scholarships for educational activities and more.
“Gourmet Guys Give Back is a family-friendly fun afternoon,” said Debbie Jones, President and CEO of the Prince William Chamber of Commerce, the event’s sponsor, and a 2010 LPW graduate. “Bring your whole family and come hungry!”
The event is structured as a live culinary competition, with an all-star lineup of local celebrities preparing dishes in appetizer, soup, chili, entree and dessert categories. A group of decorated local chefs and restaurateurs will judge the entrants and select formal prize winners in each category. Like many of the TV
tournaments, the fans will also have a choice, as attendees will have an opportunity to walk around and taste each dish to determine the ‘People’s Choice” winners in each category.
In addition to watching the culinary main event, there will also be live music, kid’s entertainment (Santa, too!), raffles and other interesting food-related diversions. The event is just $25 for adults (14 and older), $10 for young adults (ages 6 to 13), and free to children 5 and under.
Evolution of This Tasty Event
Now in its fourth year, the event has quickly evolved into one of the county’s most popular annual events … like a treasured family holiday recipe that only gets served once a year.
That recipe starts with a teaspoon of the Prince William Chamber of Commerce, the meaty center of the dish, there to nourish the local business and non-profit communities and sponsor the event. Then, there’s an equal amount of Leadership Prince William, seasoning the event with its aromatic mix of local leaders, charity work, community enrichment and inspirational civic activism. And, lastly, the not-so-secret ingredient and (perhaps) the key to the event, are the county’s finest celebrity amateur chefs themselves, providing their signature dishes, flavor and style to the event.
“We have been very selective about who we pick,” said Andrea Short, the Chamber’s director of marketing and communications. “We wanted to have people with a bit of a local following, a well-known name, someone that people would want to come and see.”
“Like a Marty Nohe,” she added.
Enter Nohe, a participant and winner in all four years of the competition. Nohe is a born-and-raised Woodbridger and the longtime owner of Appliance Connection, an appliance and electronics store on the Prince William Parkway. He is a multi-term county board supervisor, a civic-minded family man, and he is seen out and about more in Prince William than the Potomac Mills sign.
He’s also a bit of a talker’s talker, a consummate public speaker and raconteur.
“Gourmet Guys is probably the most fun community event in Prince William County all year,” said Nohe. “There is lots of great food, some really terrific people, and [it’s] all for a great cause.”
In the spirit of a good-guy pro wrestler giving a pre-match interview, Nohe laid down some polite smack talk.
“Also, this is the year that everyone will know once and for all that I really am a much better cook than all of the other contestants,” said Nohe, who lists bacon among his favorite foods, and things in general. “They may all bring their best recipes, but they all know who is going home with the trophy. It’s me, in case that wasn’t clear.”
“He is … uhhh, known for voicing his opinions,” chuckled Short, who has been with the Chamber now for over 11 years. “And he always seems to make something with bacon. It helps because people will come [to the event]and they see him and [say to themselves]‘Huh. I can do better than that Marty Nohe. Whether they know him on a personal level [or not], they want to compete against him, and it’s all for a good cause.”
Mister Nohe, do you have anything else to add?
“In 2017, I won both the overall judge’s first prize, as well as the overall ‘fan favorite’ prize. In the same year,” said Nohe in a moment of restraint. “Wait until you see what I’m doing this year. It’s going to be out of this world. All of these other guys need to be scared. Oh yeah … and it’s for charity so they get to feel good about that, at least.”
It should be noted that in 2018, the Fan Favorite trophy for the dish that received the most votes overall went to Bill White and his sous chef Rob Sturm for their Chili Willy Brisket & Black Bean Chili. The two managed to unseat reigning champ Nohe.
Aaron Tolson, the director of development at Action in Community Through Service, or ACTS, will also be one of this year’s returning participants. A 2018 LPW alumni, he has participated in the event the last two years, winning in desserts in 2017, (a double gold winner) and last year in the appetizer category (a gold and silver winner).
“While I plan to participate again this year, I still haven’t decided what I’ll be bringing, but I’ll be working for another gold regardless,” said Tolson, an active member in several county and community events. “There are a lot of really talented cooks/chefs in our community … I enjoy interacting with my peers [in]chef’s aprons instead of business suits. It’s just a lot of fun.”
David Gignilliat is a native of Prince William County and a freelance writer who enjoys writing about local food and events.