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Published in CenterView on February 10, 2014

UMMC chef teams, judges prep for culinary extravaganza

By Jack Mazurak

The University of Mississippi Medical Center’s homage to food and fun-raising, Taste of the U, will return for its 24th year with an extravaganza of creative, bite-sized food, wildly imaginative themes, live music and crazy costumes.

The event will fill the Jackson Medical Mall Thad Cochran Center from 7-9 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 22.

Taste of the U raises funds for the UMMC Alliance, a nonprofit charitable and social organization that serves Medical Center patient, family and facility needs.

With approximately 20 teams this year, Taste-goers can enjoy spectacular displays and culinary delicacies from around the world. Bet your buttered beans, this year’s teams are cooking up some great entrees.

Ask Rehabilitation Services to lift a finger for Taste, you’ll get an overwhelming response. The group has a history of showing off its wide range of motion while making it look as easy as any activity of daily life. Count on them for a display to swing and dance about.

The Memory Impairment and Neurodegenerative Dementia (MIND) Center team will tap its collective brainpower and conjure up a delectable offering. Team captain Dr. Ken Butler, associate professor of medicine, said he couldn’t think of a better way to keep the team’s theme a secret than to zip his lips.

While Team Physical Facilities looks to continue building its record of winning constructs, the Hospital Administration team has managed to exercise its own strong entries in years past. Team captain Mary Mixon wouldn’t tip this year’s hand, but said they plan to steal the show.

Housekeeping hopes to clean up, picking up awards with a well-planned feast. The Department of Information Systems always connects with an epic and delicious display, but School of Pharmacy Team members claim they’ve formulated the perfect mix of ingredients to take home the Dr. Fine Swine trophy.

Celebrity judges include Mississippi News Now anchor Maggie Wade, chef and restaurant owner Grant Nooe and Dr. David Dzielak, director of the Mississippi Division of Medicaid. Toy Wolfe, UMMC dietitian, will judge the heart healthy entries.

And don’t be fooled by the descriptor “silent” in the auction. This year’s items will set the crowd screaming and streaming to the tables to bid.

Up for grabs this year is a two-night hunting trip at Belle Island in Vicksburg with three guided hunts, Saturday dinner and the guarantee of a buck.

Another stunner is the trip to the Ole Miss–Alabama football game on Saturday, Oct. 3, in Oxford. The package includes two tickets to the Chancellor’s Box, parking passes and a three-room, three-night stay within walking distance of the Oxford Square and campus.

That’s not the end of the University of Mississippi items. There also is a football signed by former Rebel quarterback Eli Manning and head football coach Hugh Freeze, and a pair of stadium-seat tickets to the Ole Miss-Alabama game.

Mississippi State University fans can bid on a number of autographed items, including a cowbell, a baseball, a white zip-up hoodie and a Jack Cristil book. Other auction goodies include jewelry, gift cards to local merchants and restaurants, a private dinner for four made at the auction winner’s home, and many more items. 

Funds from the 2013 Taste totaled nearly $45,000 and, in part, have been used by the Alliance to remodel the Interventional Radiology reception area. This year’s proceeds will be used to renovate the Department of Radiology reception area.

To purchase Taste of the U tickets

Cost is $25 for adults, $15 for students, interns and residents or $5 for children under 12, visit; to volunteer, call Kathy Webster at 4-6377 or email her at