WASHINGTON - Each Father's Day, a group of committed men don their aprons and chef's hats in an effort to strengthen the black family.
The event, called Real Men Cook, began 19 years ago in Chicago. Since then, the idea has spread to 10 more cities across the country.
Food, Food and More Food
"I started off with a minced barbeque," Willie Ferguson said. Ferguson has participated in the last four events.
"It's a family recipe that goes way back. My wife and everybody are trying to get this recipe. I might give it to them down the line," he said.
From curry mango chicken salad, to Texas hash and vegetarian baked beans -- plenty of good eats lined the tables at Real Men Cook in Washington, DC.
Ferguson also brought his fair share of sweets. "Carrot cake, coconut cake, brownies, strawberry shortcake, lemon cake, marble.," he said.
Hailed as the largest and longest running Father's Day celebration of its kind, the event brought with it some good music, lots of laughter and a few sticky fingers.
Cooking with a Purpose
The mission of Real Men Cook is to change how the world views black men in relationship to their families.
The event is presented by Real Men Charities which is based in Chicago. The idea was created by Yvette and Kofi Moyo.
"My parents started Real Men Cook," Rael Jackson, National Brand Manager said. "We come from a blended family. And we realized that one of the things missing from our world was family."
"There's a great need in our community to see fathers, to see men and whether that father is your surrogate father, or that father is an uncle, a coach, a pastor, a man who has been a positive role model. Our communities need that," Justin Wooley, associate executive director, Real Men Charities, Inc., said.
"Through Real Men Cook we understand that real men are needed in our communities and real men respond," he said.
A Growing Idea
And so for a few hours on Father's Day men from Atlanta, Chicago, Benton Harbor, Mich., Dallas, Detroit, Los Angeles, New York, Philadelphia, Phoenix and Washington, DC volunteer their time for a good cause.
Real Men Cook is also held in Houston, but it's held on June 21 which is Juneteenth - the commemoration that marks the end of slavery.
Thousands of people are fed - in more ways than one.
"When we come forth and give of ourselves, the way Jesus gave - with no reserves, no ulterior motives - that's when we really get blessed," Michael Hall of Michael Hall Delicacies said.
Hall first heard of the event in 2007. He was a pastry chef at the time and vowed to volunteer at the event after he graduated. He stayed true to his promise.
"Instead of letting words just evaporate, I turned them into action. And I'm here," Hall said as he served up strawberry leche cake, carrot cake and spinach quiche.
More than 40 men took part in this Father's Day celebration in Washington, DC to show their support for family by cooking up their favorite dishes with love. But dads weren't the only ones appreciating the day - moms were too.
"It's really nice to show him my appreciation, not only mine, but the children - how we appreciate having him as a father," Dawn McCloud said. "He shows them plenty of love, plenty of attention, gives them quality time."
More than just Real Good Food
The event also stresses the importance of good health
"Unfortunately I lost my father to prostate cancer 10 years ago," Ludwig Gaines, a councilman from Alexandria, Va. said.
"It's really a silent killer. But we can bring the message of education and prevention - we're trying to do that."
At the end of the day, the men walk away with a huge sense of achievement.
"It's good to spend time with your kids and show them how much you love them and how much you care for them," James Jordan said. This is his first Father's Day.
"My daughter is one of the most important things in my life right now," Adrian Morris said as he held his baby girl. "It's wonderful to be able to show my children, my friends, this is what you do when you can."
And the message was not lost on the children.
With a smile on his face, John Sallay reluctantly admits he listens to his father who tells him "if it is your fault just take responsibilities for your actions."
Real Men Charities also sponsors Real Men Cook with Kids - where the men go into Chicago area schools and teach the children healthy eating habits. They also have Real Men Read - which allows the men to read to school-aged-children.
The "real men" idea is spreading beyond Father's Day and this country.
The organization will soon launch Real Men Bahamas.