Florida International University

Instead of being pampered Father’s Day weekend, some dads strapped on aprons and prepared meals — for the entire community.

The Belafonte Tacolcy Center hosted Real Men Cook on Saturday, June 19, to spotlight male role models in the community.

The event attracted about 20 amateur and professional chefs who prepared their best dishes and served samples. In addition to good food, the event featured gospel and praise music, and a two-on-two basketball tournament pitting father/daughter, father/son mentor/mentee teams against one another.

“This is one way we can show that men are important and that they complete the circle in our community,” said Alison Austin, the Tacolcy Center’s CEO. “We have to help men understand that they are needed.”

Real Men Cook is a national event sponsored annually by Real Men Charities, a Chicago-based non-profit, in cities across the country. The Liberty City gathering was the first at Tacolcy. Proceeds from the $20 admission tickets to the event will support Tacolcy Center programs. Men who cooked the best dishes were awarded bragging rights for the year.

James Morris, manager of a local Winn-Dixie supermarket, said he enjoys cooking and the potential bragging rights. But, he said, the main reason he participated was because of his love for Liberty City.

“I’ll do anything for the community,” said Morris, who served prime rib steak, seasoned potatoes and pineapple chunks. “I am willing to take part in the community whether it’s Habitat for Humanity, Real Men Cook or any other event.”

Morris said the key to a good dish is to keep it simple.

“Real men should cook what they are good at, and I’m good with meat!”

Other participants in the event maintained that a good dish is a healthy dish.

Kirk Nelson and Andre Walker co-own Be Organic, a mobile catering service that promotes a healthy lifestyle.

Walker said the company seeks to bring awareness and education to a community plagued by diabetes and heart disease.

“We go to events all the time and we’re asked, ‘Do you have any fried chicken?”’ he said. “We have to get the message out there that we have to change our lives based on the food we eat.”

In the basketball tournament, father-son duo Stephon McGill and Seth McGill won the tournament, even though it was their first time playing together. Stephon McGill, the father of six and a veteran Miami police officer, said cooking is a part of fatherhood, but the main ingredient is discipline.

“Most people think of spankings when they think of discipline,” McGill said. “It's not. Discipline is about love, direction and correction.”

Attendance at the event was less than hoped for, about 100 or so, but Austin said she's not disappointed.

“I was very happy with the turnout, the entertainers and chefs,” she said. “Our goal for next year is to get more community participation.”