Medical Center's annual fundraiser event promises to be largest everPublished on Friday, January 13, 2012Published on January 13, 2012Employees of the University of Mississippi Medical Center (UMMC) plan to wow the crowd as they prepare for the 22nd Annual Taste of the U on Feb. 25. UMMC department and divisions create chef teams, menus and choose a theme, ranging from the Roaring '20s, to Hogwarts, to Mardi Gras and more. Teams cook recipes, decorate booths and dress in costumes to represent their chosen themes and put on an impressive, multi-theme party at the Jackson Medical Mall. All of the proceeds go to the UMMC Alliance, a non-profit organization whose projects benefit patients, students, faculty and staff. Tickets for 2012 Taste of the U, which is open to the community, can be purchased for $25 for adults, $15 for students and $5 for children under 12. Tickets are available online at https://alliance.umc.edu/taste_online_tickets.html. Taste of the U attendees can stroll through extravagant displays and sample as many taste-sized portions as they desire. A live band, Hunter Gibson and the Gators, will perform at center stage. Last year's event drew 36 chef teams and nearly 1,000 attendees, and this year is on track to equal or top those figures. The 2012 Taste of the U Honorary Chair is Dr. Helen Turner, UMMC associate vice chancellor for academic affairs and 28-year faculty member. Turner serves in many roles at UMMC, including physician, administrator, mentor, alum and volunteer. She earned her Ph.D. and M.D. at the Medical Center and has been committed to serving her alma mater. She plans to retire in June and her presence on campus will be missed. Turner is the central figure in the 2012 Taste of the U as she demonstrates the professionalism and excellence that UMMC strives for. Alliance board members have committed to donating funds raised this year at Taste of the U to the Mississippi Children's Justice Center. The center coordinates professional investigative, assessment and intervention services for abused and neglected children and their families. It employs one of only a handful of board-certified forensic medicine specialists in the nation and is the only such center in Mississippi. Money raised at Taste of the U will purchase new equipment to improve the level of services. As well, the Alliance this year donated to a health-literacy and obesity project under the guidance of Dr. Rick deShazo, UMMC professor of medicine.In previous years, Alliance funding has benefitted construction of the UMMC Chapel, an interfaith place of worship in the upper lobby of the University Hospital; the Appearance Center in the Cancer Institute, which allows patients a private area to try on wigs; and a garden at the University Rehabilitation Center where patients and their families can come to relax and reflect. As is tradition at Taste of the U, chef teams compete to win various titles, such as Best Taste, Best Presentation and Overall Showmanship. Categories are decided by a panel of local celebrity judges and the overall winner takes home bragging right rights and the coveted pig trophy, Dr. Fine Swine. The People's Choice winner is in the hands of event attendees, as they are the ones who cast their votes for their favorite teams. Attendees can bid on artwork, themed prize packages and other silent auction items with proceeds also supporting the UMMC Alliance.