Rim country chefs are sharpening their culinary skills in preparation for the second annual Mayor's Cup Chefs' Appetizer Competition, 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Feb. 19 at the Tonto Apache Community Center.
Last year's event, a fund-raiser for the Payson Library Friends' Building Fund, brought in $7,200 for furnishings, equipment and books for the proposed library at Rumsey Park.
Ten area restaurants and businesses were represented last year, with chefs each serving samples of their favorite appetizers. The Black Bear Restaurant of Strawberry won the competition and was the top pick among the 400 people who attended the event.
The Black Bear received $450 toward its expenses for the Scottsdale Culinary Festival event in April. Black Bear owner Cindy Windle and chef Diane Skinner went on to represent Payson in the Mayor's Cup Chefs' Appetizer Competition in Scottsdale with their Cajun Shrimp appetizer. They received the People's Choice Award from the 1,000 people who attended that event.
The Black Bear will return to compete again this year, and is one of 10 local restaurants who have thrown their chef's hats in the ring.
Other competitors include Cedar Ridge Restaurant, I.T. Catering, Macky's Grill, Mario's Restaurant and Lounge, The Oaks, The Randall House, Zane Grey Dining Room at Kohl's Ranch, Chaparral Pines and Crosswinds Restaurant.
Library Friends President Judy Buettner said others are considering joining the friendly fray.
This year, there'll be awards for the top three appetizers and an additional award for the best table presentation. Those attending will receive ballots, and the winner will be announced soon after the event concludes at 7 p.m.
"And there'll be a little more seating and some small tables," Buettner said.
Larry Enyart & Associates, the architects for the new library building, will have a three-dimensional scale model of the building on display at the competition.
Don Holcombe of KMOG Radio will emcee the event and there'll be music and wine tasting provided by Southern Wine and Spirits.
Twenty-five local artists from the Payson Art League are donating jewelry, paintings, pottery and other artwork for a raffle to be held the evening of the event.
Tickets are $20 per person and will not be sold at the door. Those attending will receive a wine goblet and a ballot when they arrive. People are encouraged to try each one of the generous appetizer samples offered by the competing chefs.
"It's very important that everyone attending vote for their favorite taste treat, and for the table presentation," Buettner said. "The chefs have been planning their entries since September and they have worked with our committee. We are continuing to work together to make this a wonderful experience for Payson.
Buettner said other organizations have joined the Library Friends this year in putting together the event. "It's so great that other organizations are supporting this," she said. "We have members of Hospice RTA, Rim Country Museum, the Payson Art League, Aid to Association of Lutherans and others working in a partnership that can do so much more to benefit the whole community.
Working together helps everybody in Payson.
"We were just thrilled and surprised by the marvelous turnout we had last year and look forward to even more people being able to attend this year," Buettner said. "We had very positive responses from the chefs and those attending."
The event is sponsored by Payson Library Friends, the Aid Association for Lutherans, and the Payson Roundup.
Tickets are now available at the Payson Public Library, the Payson Roundup, and from Library Friends board members.
For information, call the library at 474-2585 or co-chairs Buettner at 472-9015 and Jackie Ricker at 474-9456.