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Cooking Family Style

African American men show off their culinary skills and support community

June 18, 2002|BETTIJANE LEVINE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Do real men cook? Of course they do. They also help with housework, care for their kids, write poetry, bring home the bacon--and participate in society in ways that make their parents, kids and spouses proud. Then again, not all men do each of those good things--or get credit for it when they do.

That's one reason why Real Men Cook has been a successful venture on Father's Day for the last 13 years. Taking place in 10 cities simultaneously, the event is touted as a way for men in the African American community to show off culinary talents along with their devotion to family, neighborhood and charity. Part of this year's proceeds go to the Magic Johnson Foundation.

In Los Angeles on Sunday, about 100 cooks and 1,000 guests showed up on the top parking level of the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza for the festivities. Excel Sharieff, 31, an entertainment lawyer, was serving up his favorite macaroni and cheese recipe, with guidance from his dad, Roy Davis, 60. Sharieff said he participates "to let the community know there are lots of African American males that actually support their communities and have very strong family values."

Lorenzo Brown, a third-year finance student at the University of Pennsylvania, offered up his refreshing corn salad at the Alpha Kappa Alpha booth because "I'm home for the summer and my aunt roped me into it." George Bowman, an insurance and investment broker, served up portions of his special recipe Louisiana baked beans along with his business cards. For many at the event, it was a way to meet potential customers as well as do good work.

Anton Allen ate a lot. The proprietor of what he calls "the biggest and best barbershop in L.A.," New Millennium Sports, also was feeding the youngest of his four children, Croice, 1 1/2.

"I'm here to show support for family," he said.

Harold Hambrick, executive director of the Los Angeles Business Expo and president of the Los Angeles Black Restaurant Assn., admitted he doesn't cook a whole lot at home--except for his specialty, fried turkey, a favorite of his family. For the Father's Day event, Hambrick had fried a few huge turkeys, then stood in the booth carving and serving all afternoon.

The music and poetry of Shang and Sheon, members of the Def Poets, entertained the crowd. Their words--about fatherhood and family--were as nourishing as anything else on the menu.

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