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500 people attend 7th Annual “25 Men Who Can Cook” Event

By Ellis Codjoe, January 22, 2018

OTTUMWA — Local chefs impressed the judges, and a huge turnout of 500 enjoyed their delicacies at Ottumwa Symphony Orchestra’s 7th Annual “25 Men Who Can Cook” event at Bridge View Center on Saturday. Billed as the “tastiest 2-hours” in Ottumwa, this year’s event truly lived up to the tradition and then some.

Chef Gordon Rader of Indian Hills Community College, one of the five-person Judging Team stated, “I am always impressed with the quality of food that the chefs prepare at this event, but this time around the chefs set the bar higher than ever.”

Other judges included Mary Kivlahan, retired IHCC Culinary professor; Mark Fisher, IHCC Culinary Arts Program Director, and Fletcher Person and Chris Hickie, multiple winners in previous 25 Men events.

Top chefs selected by the judges in 2018 included:


1st Place – Richard Palen (Fareway) – Symphonic Salmon – an Orchestra of Flavor

2nd Place – Brian Quinn (Mercy Medical Clinic) – Crispy Pork Wontons

3rd Place – Nate Miller (Indian Hills Community College) – Braised Pork Belly BAO


1st Place – Thomas Roberson (Appanoose Rapids) – The AR Steak Rollup w/ Poached Pear Salad

2nd Place – Bob Newell (Bridge View Center) – Pork Wellington

3rd Place – Reynaldo Royval (Burritos Los Roy) – Homemade Chorizo w/Cheese


1st Place – Derek Hedgecock (Downtown Fitness) – Chicken Fried Ice Cream

2nd Place – Tim Schwartz (Hotel Ottumwa) – Chocolate Hazelnut

3rd Place – Erik Cross (Bridge City Design Studio) – Simply the Best

The People’s Choice Award was voted on by the crowd attending, and was closely contested:

People’s Choice:

1st Place – Bill Ward (Fremont’s Retired Barber) – Home Made Ice Cream

2nd Place – Rick Slaymaker (Sinclair Tractor) – Smoked Brisket Slider

3rd Place – Richard Palen (Fareway) – Symphonic Salmon – an Orchestra of Flavor

Sponsors for the event included Gold Sponsors: South Ottumwa Savings Bank and John Deere Ottumwa Works; Silver Sponsors: NOEL Insurance, Indian Hills Community College, and Mary Beth Hammer; and Bronze Sponsors: Ottumwa Regional Health Center, McCune & Reed Insurance, and Keith and Barb Sasseen.

The Ottumwa Symphony Orchestra utilizes profits from this event to assist with the cost of providing the five concerts that they perform in Ottumwa annually.

Next up for the symphony will be the Nancy and Gene Gaub Benefit Recital at First United Methodist Church at 2:00 p.m. on Feb. 4, and  their Winter Concert, “Suites and Sweets,” at 7:30 p.m. on March 3 in the Indian Hills Community College Dining Room. Ticket information can be found at the Symphony website, .


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