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Local eateries compete to Help Harry Halt Hunger in Delaware

March 15, 2019

Last weekend I had the pleasure of being one of the judges for the 29th annual Rehoboth Beach Chocolate Festival. I met celebrity chef and author Vincent Tropepe, along with Harry K Foundation luminaries that included Executive Director Stephanie Roash, board member Robyn Rosenfeld-Aburrow, Harry K communications guru Karen Myers, judge wrangler Tish Brey (she had her hands full with our sugar-addled group!), and of course the soft-spoken and always smiling Harry Keswani himself. I was joined by a great group of judges that included Ken and Lynn Brittingham, Gilligan’s Cheryl Tilton, talented chef and Delaware Technical Community College Culinary Instructional Director Ed Hennessy, Paul Cullen, Carolyn Shriver, Anne Jacobi, Christopher Shultz, Annie Frederickson, Chris Cox and Kathy McGuiness.

I was doubly honored to have Harry as a guest on my radio show last December. Born and raised in London, Keswani moved here 35 years ago, opening Atlantic Jewelry on the Rehoboth Beach Boardwalk just three years later. He came from a family where his parents struggled to get food on the table. In a rare moment of speechlessness (that didn’t last long…), I was surprised to learn the scope and the reach of the Harry K Foundation’s H4 Initiative. He spoke rather emotionally on the air about the number of Delaware kids, some of whom actually live in the Rehoboth area, who go to bed hungry - every night. At first glance, it’s hard to tell these kids apart from their schoolmates, but the schools’ nutritional staff has an inside track. That’s where Harry and his foundation come in by setting up food pantries in the various schools. Forty pantries are currently in operation, and the kids’ parents are invited to come in and take enough food and snacks to help them make it from one day to the next.

My favorite part of all this is the backpack program. Let’s face it: high school can be a difficult time on many levels, and discretion is often the best route when helping needy kids. To that end, Harry K and his team bypass all that by proactively filling nondescript backpacks - currently about 500 in Sussex every weekend - with enough food items to provide each child with two meals over the weekend. The backpacks are inserted into the kids’ lockers to be taken home.

So where does Harry Keswani get the money to do this? Part of that question was answered last weekend at the Atlantic Sands Swan Ballroom, but there are other events that include a 5K run at the Greene Turtle in Lewes and the annual black-tie Harry K Ball around Christmas. When it comes to events like the chocolate festival, many people don’t realize that the participating restaurants become ad hoc partners in the foundation by donating their time, personnel, product and skills to the program. This year’s talented participants included Spice & Tea Exchange, Bethany Blues, SoDel Concepts, Mug & Spoon, Big Fish Bakery, Blackwall Hitch, Solutions Gourmet, Little Brick Cakery, Bucky’s BBQ, Cocoa Exchange, East Coast Sweetery, Eden, Gottalottagelata, the Ice Cream Store and Kilwins Rehoboth. Nobody in the foundation gets paid, so 100 percent of the admission proceeds goes to feeding the kids.

The judges were sequestered in a separate room and assigned to specific sugary categories. I was assigned to ice cream creations and to the showpieces. The other categories were cookies/pies, brownies/cakes and candy/other. Well, that time has arrived: The envelope, please. The winners of the 2019 Harry K Foundation Chocolate Festival are: Ice Cream Store, Big Fish Bakery, Eden and Bucky’s BBQ for first-place positions in their various categories. In fact, Big Fish took two first-place positions and Eden snagged three.

Second-place winners (by the slimmest of margins!) were Big Fish, Little Brick Cakery, Bucky’s BBQ, SoDel Concepts and Bethany Blues. Big Fish filled two positions and so did Bethany Blues. Third place (again – by only a few measly points) included Little Brick Cakery, Blackwall Hitch, Kilwins, SoDel Concepts, Ice Cream Store, E.C. Creamery and Big Fish Bakery. Blackwall Hitch sported two third-place ribbons.

Big Fish walked away with the grand prize for the Mexican Mocha Ice Cream. Deeply chocolaty; not too sweet - with a whisper of heat. It was a rollercoaster in the mouth!

This is all sweet fun, of course, because the real winners are the local kids who benefit from the efforts of the Harry K Foundation partnered with each and every generous participant. Harry’s efforts to increase the awareness of hunger in local areas are certainly paying off.

  • So many restaurants, so little time! Food writer Bob Yesbek gives readers a sneak peek behind the scenes, exposing the inner workings of the local culinary industry, from the farm to the table and everything in between. He can be reached at byesbek@capegazette.com.

    Masthead photo by Grant Gursky. Used with permission from Coastal Style Magazine.