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100 Strong

SINCE ITS INCEPTION in 1990, 100 Black Men has awarded some 41 scholarships and raised over $200,000 for area youth. That buys a few books. Of the many such chapters nationwide, Sonoma County is the only one that honors the culinary profession.

"The idea was to do something that made sense in the county," says president Bill Clarke of the tie-in to our eat-and-drink capital. Polling 1,000 food professionals from all over the country, the 100 Black Men group each year devises a list of the most revered cooks, flies them into the county, and makes the honorable souls cook up one heck of a four-course meal.

But shouldn't they be tucked in with linen napkins and allowed to pick up a fork and knife for once?

"A chef wants to cook," chuckles Bea Beasley, who serves as the event's coordinating chef, and who is preparing the dessert. "Most of us are pretty thick anyhow. We get immediate gratification from seeing smiles on people's faces. And what better way to show their talents? They don't look at it as a chore.

"The other thing that this serves," she continues seriously, "and I need to mention this: Blacks don't just do soul cooking. A lot of people don't know that. Not so much in Sonoma County, but in Idaho, in North Carolina . . . "

What? They think the whole thing is going to be nothing but chitlins and greens?

"Yeah, right," she says, before breaking into a hungry giggle. "Oooooh, gosh, have you ever had them? Umm."

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From the August 14-20, 1997 issue of the Sonoma County Independent.

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