It’s nearing time to celebrate the coming year, but I could not let the last dregs of 2018 pass before telling you about a great new annual foodie event–ACE’s ‘Pasghetti Cook-Off.

Birminghamians love to eat and love to serve a good cause. Put those two things together, and it’s no wonder that we have food-related fundraisers galore. Despite the growing number of such events, our local nonprofits haven’t yet run out of ideas.

The newest addition to the yum-yum-make-donor-bellies-happy scene is ACE, or AlaQuest Collaborative for Education, a local nonprofit that specializes in social and emotional learning, or SEL.

The judges were very severe, as you can see here.

As the homepage of their website explains, ACE was developed as a response to the senseless murders of several young men, one of whom was Joshua Smith, the 22-year-old brother and son of founders Matthew Smith and Linda Coogan, respectively.

The founders strive to foster a healthy community, and their passion and commitment for SEL and nonviolence is clear. Though the nonprofit was formed as recently as 2015, ACE has already served over 2000 students in the Greater Birmingham Area, providing the young people (and actually people of all ages) in our community access to important life and SEL skills.

Executive Director and Founder Matthew Smith (center) introduces his stellar staff.

Some of the organizations they work with most consistently at this time are Fairfield City Schools, the Alabama School of Fine Arts, and the Magic City Acceptance Center. Check out their website, and follow them on Facebook to stay in the know or even sign up as a volunteer!

There was a drum circle. Need I say more?

Their inaugural foodie fundraiser took place earlier this month in the cafeteria of Riverchase Presbyterian Church, currently serving as ACE headquarters. The spaghetti competition was open to local competitors, so if you have a special sauce, consider participating next year!

Andrea, Life-Skills Education Coordinator of ACE

Sufia Alam, Administrative Assistant at ACE

Otha Richardson, of band Take 7, leading a drum circle.

This year’s competitors did not disappoint, and 3 of the 4 competitors offered a vegetarian option, so I was absolutely chuffed (and then, stuffed!). There were also home-baked desserts galore and a selection of wine and beer, all complimentary with a ticket.

So many vegetarian options, and all so delicious!

And while I absolutely enjoyed every bite, I was happy that my favorite dish (a clever little number that (I think) included chunks of cheese in the sauce) won the competition.

Sufia won the most votes!

Loveliest of bartenders!

Take 7



Overall, the event was a lovely mix of whimsy (the wigged judges), sophistication (complimentary wine with a most congenial server, amazing live band, beautiful decor), and thoughtful choices (sweet souvenirs for each guest). I can’t wait to see how they top their pilot next year!