ANNA MARIA -- When Christine Witt's son, Christopher, lost his father several years ago, she knew something was missing in the young boy's life.
"He hasn't had a consistent male figure to look up to," Witt said, tears in her eyes. "Moms can tell a boy how to be a man, but only a man can show a boy how to become a man."
Christopher, now 8, spends his free time with David -- his "big" provided through Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Sun Coast.
"We go kayaking, swimming, cook together," Christopher said. "Sometimes he even lets me play on his drum set."
When Witt saw the impact of Christopher joining Big Brothers Big Sisters, she decided to get involved as well.
"I signed him up and thought maybe there's a girl who might need a role model and I figured why can't I do it?" Witt said.
Witt was one of nearly 25 chefs who took part Saturday night in the third annual Cooking for Kids, a fundraising event for Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Sun Coast in Manatee County.
Witt, who is a member of the fundraising committee, served several kinds of cupcakes, with the most popular being a carrot pineapple spice cake topped with a buttercream frosting.
Amateur and professional chefs from the area skirted the gymnasium at the Anna Maria Island Community Center, competing for the title of Master Chef.
Attendees, who bought single tickets or tables, were
allowed to sample unique dishes, voting for their favorites.
Community Chef de Cuisine Diann Green's Mexican pork, tomatillo and black bean quisado won the people's choice. Green, who also won at last year's event with a chicken sausage gumbo, wasn't the only repeat winner.
John Medico, co-owner of the Cortez Clam Factory, won the people's choice in the professional category with his lobster bisque. He won last year with pulled pork sliders.
While taking home a trophy is rewarding, participating in the event is about helping the organization.
"It's for the kids of our local community and all the money stays in our town," he said.
Dishes were also sampled by guest judges: Randall Woods, Blue Cross/Blue Shield representative and member of the Big Brothers Big Sisters Corporate Board; Jamie Gregorich, 2011 contestant on "Hell's Kitchen" and sous chef at Euphemia Haye; and Cihan Cobanoglu, professor and dean of the College of Hospitality and Technology Leadership at University of South Florida.
The judges chose Kahlua cupcakes, made according to Jaclyn Ohman's secret recipe, as the community chef favorite.
"She wouldn't even let me help her make them," said Ohman's assistant, Crystal Holtzclaw, who added a homemade frosting to the samples.
Smack Daddy's BBQ's pulled pork sliders, with a special tomato-based sauce and pretzel bread, won the judges' favorite professional dish.
"The community is where our money comes from," said Mike Card, owner of the recently opened restaurant. "People have to come and support us and we have to support them.
All proceeds from the event will fund one-to-one mentoring programs in Manatee County.
Kelly Thormahlen, events coordinator, said Cooking for Kids is the only large fundraiser for Manatee County's participants.
There are 258 matches in Manatee County and 38 children, ages 6 to 18, on a waiting list. Thomahlen said 35 of those waiting for a match are boys.
"It takes $1,000 per child per year to have a match," she said. "We definitely want to educate people and find more volunteers."
The event also included a silent auction of products and services donated by local individuals and businesses. The biggest give-away was a raffled 2007 Kawasaki Vulvan 500 motorcycle, donated by Gettel Toyota.
Seth Marks had the winning ticket.
"I'm in disbelief," Marks said, as he and his wife, Brooke, looked at their new ride. "I wasn't expecting to win. I was just giving $100 to Big Brothers Big Sisters."
Anyone interested in becoming a Big Brothers Big Sisters mentor in Manatee County can call 941-746-7000 or visit www.bbbssun.org.
Elizabeth Johnson, Herald law enforcement reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7041. Follow her on Twitter @EJohnsonBHcrime.