Chefs Compete For Top Taste Honors Saturday

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On Saturday, a lot of people might be skipping lunch.

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Participating in A Taste of Rim Country are (back row, from left) Dale Tollefson, Linda Weber, culinary consultant Gary Bedsworth, Kevin DeWitt, (front row) Leoni Dobbins, Jan Marnell and Diane Frederick Bedsworth.

A Taste of Rim Country culinary event and library fund-raiser takes place this Saturday from 5 to 7 p.m. at the Tonto Apache Community Center.

Reference librarian Bessie Sopeland said that 300 tickets for the event have already been sold, but that up to 100 more tickets are still available.

"The expectation was 300 tickets, so we're right on target," she said.

The event will feature a "sweet and savory" from each of the nine participating local chefs or groups of chefs. The chef who has the best appetizer and dessert, decided by sampling and balloting by audience members, will win the Taste of Rim Country Cup -- a trophy they'll be able to keep all year, Sopeland said.

The selection of a winning chef was not done in last year's event, but is a process that been done before, Sopeland said.

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Inspired by his aunt, chef Kevin DeWitt of the Zane Grey Steakhouse at Kohl's Ranch has been cooking since he was a child. "My aunt was very influential in the restaurant business," he said. "She took my sister and me to the French Quarter in New Orleans, where we met famous chefs. After that, I knew that's what I wanted to do."

Funds raised by the event will go toward the $1.4 million library expansion project, designed to fit the growing needs of Payson. The plan calls for a 5,500-square-foot wing stocked with wireless Internet access, 20 computer terminals and extra space.

Tickets are still available for the scrumptious event and can be purchased at the library or the Payson Roundup office. Tickets are $30 a person.

The chefs participating in the Taste of Rim Country event include: Rick DePhilippis from the Cedar Ridge Restaurant, Leonie Dobbins from the Red Elephant Bakery Café, Kevin DeWitt from the Zane Grey Steakhouse at Kohl's Ranch, Jan Marnell from the Strawberry Lodge, Olive Matus from Creekside Steakhouse, Gerardo Moceri from Cucina Paradiso, Randy Ortega from the Rim Club Restaurant, the Payson Regional Medical Center culinary staff, including Diane Frederick Bedsworth, Maria Cohen, Kristy River, Geraldine Vaccaro and Helen Young, Dale Tollefson from the Rimside Grill and Linda Weber from Fireside Espresso.

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