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Growing up on a farm near Bethlehem in northcentral Ohio's Richland County, the Rev. Dennis Metzger was just 5 when he started cooking.
"I love to cook," said Father Metzger, pastor of St. Joseph Catholic Church in Sylvania. "We learned how to cook very young. My parents were both excellent cooks."
He was one of 10 celebrity chefs who put their skills on display last week during a fund-raiser for the Little Sisters of the Poor.
About 325 invited guests attended the celebrity chef event at the Pinnacle in Maumee, which is expected to raise more than $70,000 for Sacred Heart Home in Oregon.
The event was part of the Little Sisters of the Poor's 125th anniversary celebration. Since 1885, they have sponsored Sacred Heart Home in Oregon as part of their service to the elderly poor in northwest Ohio and southeast Michigan.
This year, the Little Sisters of the Poor are celebrating their longevity in the Toledo area, the canonization of foundress Sister Jeanne Jugan, the support they have received locally - and Sacred Heart Home's residents, said Sister Cecilia Mary Sartorius, mother superior and nursing home administrator.
"That's what we're all about," Sister Sartorius said. "Without them, none of this would happen. We're celebrating their lives, and their joy, and their wisdom, and all that they share
Rose Marie Strayer was among Sacred Heart Home's residents who enjoyed the evening, dining on items such as bacon-wrapped scallops with maple and mustard cream sauce and poached salmon filets with watercress mayonnaise, two of Father Metzger's recipes.
"It's exciting," said the resident of the home's independent living area.
The evening featured six chef bars with various dishes, music by St. John's Jesuit High School's Jazz Machine and Cardinal Stritch High School's chorus, silent auctions, 125th anniversary cake, and a grand prize raffle of $5,000.
There also was a live auction for three celebrity chef dinner packages for 10 people each. Father Metzger, the Rev. Michael Billian, and the Rev. Charles Singler each will prepare and serve meals at the Pinnacle at later dates.
Pinnacle owner Mark Thees, son of Bill Thees, chairman of Little Sisters of the Poor lay advisory board, donated the facility for the event and helped cook up the concept.
The event also had a slew of other private and corporate sponsors.
The 10 celebrity chefs, all priests from the Diocese of Toledo, manned each of the food stations along with Pinnacle chefs. Some, including Father Metzger, were more involved with food preparation than others.
Sacred Heart Home's pastor, the Rev. Joseph Weigman, pretty much admitted he could not cook. But he helped serve and talked with attendees, as did the Little Sisters.
"We're just kind of mingling with the guests to spread the mission of the home," Father Weigman said.
Typically, the Little Sisters of the Poor get about 100 people to attend such fund-raisers. But the celebrity chef event, the first of its kind in the area, attracted many more.
"It's fun - something different," said Sister Florine D'Souza, who was helping at Father Metzger's station.
"We are so grateful for the people who come here who lend a helping hand for us," she added.
Father David Reinhart, president of Kateri Catholic School System in Oregon who soon will leave to serve as an active duty chaplain in the U.S. Air Force, said between serving up salads: "This is the first time we've done this. It's a nice thing to do for a great cause."