Some men know their way around the kitchen, but for others cooking can be a struggle. Thanks to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Publix Super Markets, three more families in the Bay area can now boast a dad with culinary talents.
In honor of Father's Day, and to help three special families that are facing a much more significant test than what to make for dinner, the Bucs and Publix organized their second annual "Kitchen Coaching" event on Tuesday. The participants were selected through local cancer outreach organizations that help provide memorable opportunities for families who have a member battling cancer.
The three eager fathers were invited to the Publix Apron's Cooking School at a nearby super market, where they were taught how to make homemade pizza for their families. The evening was organized as a fun-filled night that also included the opportunity to meet such prominent Buccaneer alumni as Shelton Quarles, Tony Mayberry, Dave Moore, Dave Green and Ian Beckles. Buccaneers mascot Captain Fear was also on hand, as were several former members of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Cheerleaders squad.
To help the dads along in the kitchen, the expert chefs at Publix provided basic instruction and tips for the fathers as they tied on their aprons. Fathers, kids, cheerleaders and players all gathered in the kitchen to follow some unique pizza recipes, from classics like pepperoni to more unique creations, such as a dessert pizza topped with marshmallows.
"We are so proud to have the partnership we have with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers," said Shannon Patten, manager of media and community relations at Publix. "We want these dads and kids to learn the basics of kitchen cooking and hopefully take back some recipes and memories as well."
The families will certainly have plenty of memories to share from this special day. One father, Peter Fernandez, not only got to spend a great night with his family but also met his all-time favorite player, Dave Moore.
"I had no idea he was going to be here," Fernandez said. "My uncle took me to games when I was younger and I just sort of gravitated to him. He was good at what he did, I loved the intensity he brought to games. Getting to meet Dave just adds to this experience. My wife and my kids are having such a great time; it's all very special."
Fernandez' wife, Jackie, was equally thrilled to be at the event and couldn't hide the smile she had from watching her husband and children in the kitchen.
"It was really nice for the Bucs to recognize us," she said. "It means a lot to my husband and our family. He is having a good time, the kids are having a good time, it's just nice to have our minds on something different for a while."
The Fernandez family wasn't the only one making lasting memories, and although the evening brought about some emotions, it also provided Anthony Battaglia with a Father's Day he said he'll never forget.
"It's a Father's Day event that means the world to me and to my wife," he said. "It makes me happy, and I can't tell you how happy it makes her. And my son, you can see how much fun he is having. It's been phenomenal to be able to do this and to have all of us together [to celebrate] Father's day. We have been going through a lot over these years and it just means the world for us to be doing things like this together because it's hard for her to do things like this, so thank God."
The Battaglia's eight-year-old son, Conner, was heavily involved in the creation and cooking process and was the first one to volunteer to flip the pizza dough, a sight his mother was delighted to watch.
"It's great," she said. "It's one of my son's all-time dreams. He's in heaven right now."
Deanna Battaglia was commended the Buccaneers for acknowledging the everyday struggles that many cancer patients experience.
"It's very kind for the Bucs to do things like this," she said. "It's a good break, it gives us something else to think about and participate in. My son was bouncing around in the car the whole way here. We are all so excited to be here."
The families weren't the only ones taking part in the fun, as the Buc alumni invaded the kitchen as well, even taking a few cooking pointers from the kids. Quarles, the former Pro Bowl linebacker and current coordinator of pro scouting for the Buccaneers also attended the Kitchen Coaching event in 2010 and was happy to see this year's group make the most of the evening.
"It was just such a fun event last year," he said. "To meet different people in our community that are affected by cancer, to have an impact and be involved in their lives is special. I was glad I got the chance to come back out and spend time with these families."
As a husband and a father, Quarles said he could relate to the families and could tell how much they were enjoying the event.
"This is a great event for Father's Day," he said. "The moms can be a part of it and they really get to see the interaction between the fathers and the kids, so it's unique. It's special, the bond that parents have with their kids, and for a dad to spend time with his kids doing something that moms usually do…I know I would love to spend some time in the kitchen with my kids cooking something for my wife."
At the end of the evening, the Buccaneers surprised each family with a special gift package. Each father was given a Buccaneers tailgating grill, a grill utensil set, gift certificates, Buccaneers apparel and, as a final treat, a pair of season tickets for the upcoming season.
Anthony Battaglia was delighted with the gift package, but also put into perspective what was the most important part of the evening: spending time together as a family.
"This is the best Father's Day ever," Battaglia said. "It will always be the best Father's Day ever because I have my wife and my son and we are doing things like this. It's hard for her to really do things like this and to see her having a ball, it's like she's totally forgotten about everything else that's going on and she's enjoying the moment with her son and her husband and everyone else here today. We just have to give thanks for that."