Non-profit News

Chocolate Challenge Set for March 31

Cynthia Shea Hart, veteran restaurateur, has found yet another way to positively impact our community and the people who live here. Recently, Cynthia restructured her namesake restaurant, Cyn Shea’s Café and Catering, and created a nonprofit training kitchen, Serving Hope, Inc. 

Serving Hope, operating out of Cyn Shea’s Cafe, serves to help people get back on their feet through job training, culinary skills, financial planning, personal grooming and interview training.

On March 31st from 6:00 – 9:00 p.m., Serving Hope will be hosting its first annual fundraiser—Cynthia calls it a fun-raiser—at the Jackson Center. And you should know, it involves chocolate! The Serving Hope Chocolate Challenge & Tasting  is sure to appeal to even the most delicate chocolate lover’s palate.

Cynthia and her crew are calling all professional and amateur cooks, bakers, candy makers and chefs to enter the competition, and she’s asking all chocolate enthusiasts to come and taste the fun! So far, she has invited everyone from Boy Scout Troops to high-end restaurants like Grille 29 and seasoned chocolatiers like the Chocolate Gallery.

“We’re trying to make it fun for all ages, and who doesn’t love chocolate?” Cynthia said.

There are two divisions—amateur and professional—with awards for most creative use of chocolate, most unusual flavor profile, people’s choice, and most visually appealing display. And the most coveted prize of the evening, Serving Hope Chocolate Champion, will be awarded to the two professional and amateur entries that best demonstrate mastery and skill in all four of the award categories!

Cynthia clarifies what contest entries are acceptable. “It could be a beverage,” she explains. “It can be donuts. It can be cake. It can be candy. It can be chili. The main ingredient just has to be chocolate. We hope that people will take the risks and offer something unusual.”

Competitors are encouraged to be creative and original when it comes to their cocoa creations. However, Cynthia cautions white chocolate is not a true chocolate and can only be used as a garnish per competition rules.

Even local celebs are getting in on the action! Celebrity guest judges include Lisa Williams, entrepreneur, Elizabeth Gentle of WAFF and Councilman Devyn Keith.

While we aren’t going to reveal what their chocolate preferences are, it’s worth noting Cynthia prefers all things dark chocolate.

Cynthia wants you to know this fundraiser is interactive, so if you are a chocolate lover, The Serving Hope Chocolate Challenge & Tasting for you. Each entry ticket entitles the bearer to entry samples from each contestant (professional and amateur), coffee, water and seating.

Best of all, the winner of the amateur division will have their winning entry featured at the Café in a day of recognition, while the professional division winner will be featured on Channel 48 and will also be highlighted in a story in the Community Journal!

Serving Chocolate, Serving Hope

All proceeds from the event will go to aid Serving Hope, Inc., a seven-month work and life-skills curriculum that offers students hands-on experience while working in a functioning café–Cyn Shea’s Café (a division of Serving Hope, Inc.) Once they complete the program, Serving Hope students will be equipped with ServSafe certification, culinary skills, farm-to-table experience, workplace etiquette training, financial planning instruction, personal grooming, interview/resume preparedness training, volunteer experience and job placement assistance.

So, who are the students at Serving Hope?

People like Lori.   

Lori, 44, is a survivor of domestic violence. She’s been through some rough times, but things are looking up for Lori and her 3-year-old daughter.

She landed at Serving Hope a few weeks ago when she went to the Department of Human Resources, and they told her about the new program. From the first moment she saw the application, she knew it was divine intervention.

“Not even halfway through reading about Cyn Shea’s Cafe and Serving Hope, and I was already ready for it,” Lori says. “I just kept saying, ‘This is God’s will. This is what he wants for me.’ ”

Since she started, Lori has been learning to wash dishes the proper way—the way they do it in restaurants, not the way you do it in your home. It’s a job skill she will carry with her long after she finishes the Serving Hope program.

“I’ve been here a week today, and I’m just absolutely loving it. I have more confidence. I feel better because I have something to look forward to. The fact that God is in here, all over the walls and through Mrs. Cynthia—it’s just amazing.”

How to Enter

Tables and tablecloths will be provided at The Serving Hope Chocolate Challenge & Tasting, but Cynthia encourages everyone to make a nice display for their samplings. Participants need to bring at least 300 samplings.

Tickets are $20 in advance and $25 at the door. They are available online here. There is no additional cost for chocolate entries. If you would like to compete, contact Julie Johnson at [email protected], call 256.684.8521 or visit their website.

Bring the whole family to The Serving Hope Chocolate Challenge & Tasting and indulge in some amazing chocolate for charity!

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