IV Press Article 2-12-16 ### Forth Annual Produce Gala

Posted: Saturday, February 6, 2016 12:20 am | Updated: 1:33 pm, Fri Feb 12, 2016.

By WILLIAM ROLLER, Staff Writer |

There is far more to a delicious salad than just tossing a spring mix. So some of the most creative nonprofessional chefs across the Valley competed to raise funds for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Imperial Valley.

Teams gathered at the Old Eucalyptus School House at the fourth annual Produce Gala and Saladero contest to highlight the produce of local growers and to support afterschool programs for the three chapters of the Boys & Girls Clubs in Brawley, El Centro and Holtville, noted Misty R. Lee, the clubs interim executive director. “One thing I love about this event is our amazing volunteers who make it all possible.”

Tickets cost $35 that treated guests to some amazingly creative salads and great wine. A silent auction offered unique gifts along with mystery boxes concealing beneath their festive wrapping one of several treats such as vacation packages, wine baskets, movie baskets, gift certificates for restaurants and massages. All proceeds go to benefit the Boys & Girls Clubs’ programs.

Tossing salad with precision workmanship was the Imperial County Sheriff’s Department corrections division. Helping was Cassandra Nelson, correctional service assistant. Their offering was a barbeque shredded beef salad. And since it won second place at the Rib Cook-off, they decide to continue the theme, Nelson remarked. “I’m pretty much the cook at home but salad is not my forte,” Nelson said. “We’re just here to have fun and support the cause.”

The Young Farmers and Ranchers, for ages 18 to 35, was working on a “melon and prosciutto over mixed greens salad.” Dicing up ingredients with the flair of an “iron chef” was Jay Watte. After an internal contest among the Young Farmers, Watte emerged as team majordomo.

“I think our salad is really strong,” he said. “Everybody here makes really good salads. It could be (winning entry) anybody tonight.”

Competing for his fourth year was Eric Pompa, a salesman and marketing manager for Vessey & Company but was turning a serving fork like professional. He’s been preparing his antipasto salad for years. “I cook at home, for Vessey and the Holtville Athletic Club,” he said. “It’s good, relaxing and I don’t have to eat out.”

Jenna West was also a veteran competitor whose friends with all the other teams and enjoys spending time with them as well, felt compelled to come back to defend her championship with her hearty kale salad garnished with creamy Tuscan dressing. “It was extremely exciting, just overwhelming to be a part of it,” she confided. “We never expected to win but we’re proud to support the Boys & Girls Clubs.”

Holtville resident Terri Schaffner was sampling Vessey & Company’s shrimp and avocado dip. “It’s excellent,” she insisted. “You just can’t ruin it.”

Also indulging at the Vessey plat du jour was El Centro resident Byron Nelson, a longtime donor to the Produce Gala. “I’ve been to lots of these and this is wonderful salad.”