Women's Volleyball
Second-Annual Chop Chef Competition Fundraiser to be Held January 31

Volleyball Coach Kevin Hambly will be showing off his cooking credentials at the second annual Chop Chef Champaign on Jan. 31.
Volleyball Coach Kevin Hambly will be showing off his cooking credentials at the second annual Chop Chef Champaign on Jan. 31.

Jan. 17, 2014

Chop Chef Website

Champaign, Ill. – Fighting Illini Volleyball Coach Kevin Hambly has another passion outside of volleyball; he is a fantastic chef! Members of the Illini volleyball community are invited to join Coach Hambly as he moves from the court to the kitchen to compete with local celebrity chefs in the second-annual Chop Chef Champaign. The event will take place at I Hotel and Conference Center, located at 1900 S. First Street in Champaign on Jan. 31, beginning at 6 p.m. Tickets are $150 per person, with proceeds going directly towards the Illini volleyball team’s next trip to Europe.

Those who attend the event will be treated to an elegant dinner, complete with wine pairings, and will get a chance to affect the outcome, as every attendee can vote for their favorite chefs along with a panel of celebrity judges. Following the delicious gourmet dinner, guests are invited to stick around for an after party, complete with a DJ.

“This is like no other fundraiser people have been to,” said Hambly. “It is not a passive event.  You come to the event and you are part of the judging.  It has a great vibe, and people are able to socialize and eat great food.

“Second, you are going to help the Women's Volleyball program. The opportunity to go to Europe for us last year was such a great experience for our group.  We got closer as a team.  We were able to be a part of and learn a lot from a new culture.  We were able to challenge the team in a lot of ways that will have an impact on their lives beyond their time here at Illinois.”

While the public event does not begin until dinner time, for the chefs it’s an all day affair. At 9 a.m., the chefs will be told the key ingredient for each of four quick fire dishes; a hot dish, a cold dish, a soup and an entree. After discussing plans with their team, they will have 15 minutes to gather their extra ingredients from the grocery store, with each team receiving a budget of $100. They will then spend all afternoon slaving away in the kitchen to prepare the four-course meal.

Contestants are not permitted to use recipe cards, books, the internet, or any additional aid outside of their own creativity and experience to come up with their menu.

“My inspiration for this event is that I love cooking and have been thinking about this for years,” said Parham Parastaran, a key organizer of the event and a participating chef. “I love this community and I love doing anything to improve the events in the area, especially when there is a good cause like this.

“This event was perfect marriage, because I know Kevin is as much a foodie as I am. I told him about this last year and he told me about the need for the team to compete internationally. So it was perfect. At the end of the day, the community wins. Every event that advances our community is a win!”

There will be six celebrity judges, and every guest in attendance will also have the opportunity to fill out a scorecard. The evaluation is weighted as follows: 40% taste, 25% use of key ingredients, 25% creativity and 10% presentation. This year’s featured judges are Jimmy John, Thad Morrow (owner of Bacaro), Carlos Nieto (owner of several local restaurants including Jupiter’s and Cowboy Monkey), Amy Armstrong, Raymond Timpone (owner of Timpone's) and Mike Small (Illinois Men's Golf Coach).

The participating chefs at the second annual Chop Chef Champaign, which includes the top-four chefs from 2013, are Doug McCarty, Brian McKay (Art Mart), Erin Tarr, John Comet (Kansas City BBQ), Kari Gardner, Lynette Dodds, Parham Parastaran and, of course, Kevin Hambly.

“This event is special, because there is nothing like it around,” said Parastaran. “The food and wine is top notch and it will be very entertaining.

“For those that attended last year's event, the biggest difference will be the wines and the new contestants. New contestants always add an element of surprise. And, there is a DJ and party after the event!!”

“This event is Parham's baby,” said Hambly. “He and I talked a couple of years ago about doing something different, and I am just happy that he has allowed our program to be a part of this and that he is willing to put this on to help our program.  It is such an incredible event and something that when people leave from it they will feel like they were a part of something unique and special. 

“Adrian Melendez at the I Hotel and our Director of Operations Johannah Bangert have put a lot of work in to making this event happen with Parham.  It would not be possible with out them as well.”

For more information about Chop Chef 2014 and its participants or to purchase tickets, visit cuchopchef.com. Interested guests may also purchase tickets directly from Parastaran at CarX on Neil Street, which includes waiving the $5 online processing fee.