Cooking for a Cause

A Tale of Food and Philanthropy
By Victoria Kidd

For many, there are few passions in life that are more complete and consuming than the love of food. Combine that passion with a sincere drive to do good for the community, and you have the beginnings of something innovative and incredible. Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races Executive Chef Brian Collins is one of those people with passion in equal parts for food and doing good. His passions have been the driving force behind a new cookbook developed to showcase great food while benefiting the United Way of the Eastern Panhandle (UWEP).

Cooking for a Cause will be available sometime in late March or early April. This high-quality, hardcover book is unlike the seemingly standard-issue fundraising cookbooks which are familiar to most. At just over eighty full-color pages, the book is a beautiful presentation filled with delicious recipes and stunning photographs that are sure to ignite the reader’s desire to get in the kitchen and cook!

While the book’s content is compelling in its own right, the story behind how and why it was produced makes this publication something truly special. As part of an undergraduate degree program, Chef Collins was asked to complete a business plan. It was an interesting assignment for someone in his line of work, but he decided to use his love of food and his love of helping the community as the foundation for the plan. His business plan detailed how he would go about creating a cookbook that would benefit a nonprofit.

“I invested a lot of time in the project,” Collins says. “After it was complete, I thought I had something, and I shared the plan with my vice president.” Since the casino’s “house charity” is the United Way of the Eastern Panhandle, the idea of supporting the funding needs of the United Way while exposing the public to the culinary talents of Collins and his staff created excitement among management. Once Around The Panhandle Publisher Mike Hornby and photographer Bill Schilling signed on to provide their services voluntarily to the cookbook, the project was officially launched.

Collins says, “Mike and Bill, along with so many others, have been instrumental to this project. It has been amazing to see how many people have invested so much time to support the United Way through this book.” Collins relays that it cannot be understated that this project was an undertaking that required a significant investment of time from the project contributors. “I myself know that I’ve got thousands of hours in this book. It has been a lot of work, but it really has been a labor that has allowed me to work with great people for a great cause.”

The cause is one that directly benefits the surrounding community, making the investment of such time really meaningful. UWEP President/CEO Peter (Pete) Mulford explains. “Ninety-nine percent of the funds we raise stay right here in the local community. There are forty two different agencies that are supported by our efforts, and they rely on funding from the United Way to provide the services that benefit those in need in this community.”

Those services are critical for many individuals and families in the Eastern Panhandle, making the fundraising efforts of the agency imperative. Recent economic factors have impacted UWEP fundraising campaign results, making projects like the Cooking for a Cause cookbook even more significant.

“As it turns out, Chef Brian approached us at a time when we were looking at ways to increase excitement about giving to the United Way,” Mulford says. “His idea really fit right in with our intentions and how we want to change and innovate the way we raise funds. We think that this project represents not only a new way of looking at philanthropy, but also represents a fun approach to philanthropy.”

Part of that fun approach is the manner by which the public can contribute to the book’s success. In addition to being offered to the public (with a $22 donation appreciated) there are interesting opportunities to experience the culinary talents of the chef behind its production. For those contributing at the $5,000 “executive-chef” level, Collins will personally provide a breakfast or dinner for twenty guests at the sponsor’s home or office. At the $2,500 “room-chef” level, Collins will attend to ten guests for breakfast or lunch at the sponsor’s home or office. There are also sponsorship levels at $1,000 and $500 that include other benefits.

The innovation behind the way the book has been presented draws an interesting parallel to its contents. Recipes included will range from appetizers to desserts and from simple to more advanced. The included recipes will represent what readers will recognize as quintessentially Hollywood Casino— namely, a blend of artful presentation and flare. What readers may not immediately be aware of is that this project only reflects a small part of what the casino does for the UWEP.

“This book is only part of the story,” Mulford says. “It’s a project of significant effort, but it is only the most recent way Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races has supported us. They have been a terrific partner, and their support has been overall significant.” Mulford’s praise is not limited to the casino. He also knows that it is the collective efforts of all project participants—most notably Collins, Hornby, and Shilling—that have made the project possible. “What these people have done,” he says, “surpasses what we expected. They are incredible professionals, and the book is amazing. The public is in for a real treat.”

“This book is really something.” Collins explains further, “It greatly represents what we do here… We have put a lot of effort into making it something special. It really has a ‘wow factor.'”

The Cooking for a Cause cookbook is a great way to explore fantastic food while supporting the work of the United Way of the Eastern Panhandle. Be sure to reserve your copy by contacting UWEP Director Tiffany Lawrence at 304-263-0603, ext. 23. You can also email her at for more information. (While you are at it, check out the chefs who have inspired the production at

Once you get your hands on this exciting new cookbook, you’ll have a whole new reason to give ‘your compliments to the chef’ when you are dining at Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races!

Author: Brian

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