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Q&A: Championship BBQ in Chicago celebrates 18 years of fighting child hunger

4 min read

Restaurant and Foodservice

Chefs at last year’s Championship BBQ (Photo: Bill Milne)

On Sunday, May 17, professionals from the foodservice and hospitality industry will gather at Chicago’s Navy Pier for the 18th annual Championship BBQ to benefit Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry campaign. More than 1,000 people are expected to attend the fundraiser, where they will sample tasty bites and beverages and watch chefs in action during the BBQ competition. This year’s chef lineup includes Missy Corey from Publican Quality Meats in Chicago, Stephen “Smokey” Schwartz from Burnt End BBQ in Kansas and judge Stepahanie Izard from Girl and the Goat.

SmartBrief interviewed Share Our Strength co-founder Debbie Shore and Championship BBQ creator and former publisher of Food Arts magazine Barbara Mathias about how the event helps combat child hunger and what attendees can expect this year.

How did you come up with the idea for the Championship BBQ fundraiser?

Mathias: I wanted to host an event during the NRA Show that would  be fun and different from what everyone else did. I thought, “wouldn’t it be great to host an event that would be for chefs and also raise money to end hunger?” Food Arts had the power to recruit all the best chefs and we had found the cause that made sense for us. After all, we are all in the business of feeding people in foodservice,  ending hunger just seemed like a natural fit.

How is No Kid Hungry involved in the BBQ fundraiser?

Shore: We are honored to continue to be the beneficiary of the Championship BBQ. The close relationship between Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry campaign and the restaurant and foodservice industry is highlighted so well at an event like the BBQ where we come together in celebration and to support more kids getting access to the food they need.

How much money has the event raised for No Kid Hungry, and what has the organization been able to achieve with those funds?

Shore: Last year, the BBQ raised $110,000 for No Kid Hungry, and the funds support our national and state-based work to connect more kids with more meals. In America, one in five kids will face hunger this year. No Kid Hungry is ending childhood hunger today by ensuring that kids start the day with a nutritious breakfast and families learn the skills they need to shop and cook on a budget. Since our No Kid Hungry campaign launch, we’ve raised funds to get 345 million additional meals to kids struggling with hunger.

How has the event grown from its early years?

Mathias: The first BBQ was at a restaurant in Chicago called Rivers and it took place on the patio — it was a smash hit! We didn’t have enough room for all the people that showed up. So the next task was to find a spot that could hold us all, and we found a great spot, Galleria Marchetti which had beautiful gardens and outdoor space to hold all the grills. We held the BBQ there for the next dozen years and when we outgrew that space as well, we moved the BBQ to Navy Pier, where we have been for the last several years… Last year we had over 1,000 people. The best part is that we have been able to raise almost $2 million for Share Our Strength.

What part of the event are you most looking forward to?

Shore: There’s a lot of positive energy generated in a room where you have incredibly talented chefs creating amazing dishes for people who understand and appreciate the power of food. I’m looking forward not only to witnessing that excitement, but also sharing the story of how the people in that room, on that night, will be making a difference for kids all over the United States as we make no kid hungry a reality.

Mathias: Each year the event gets better than the previous year, so we expect this year to be the best one yet. There’s always a memorable moment … The best place to be on Sunday afternoon will be the 18th annual BBQ and cookout at Navy Pier. As always, we invite all the restaurant and hotel folks in town to be our guest.

 SmartBrief is the official media sponsor of the Championship BBQ benefiting No Kid Hungry.

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