Egged on by a bet and good cause

Brunch benefits kin of police, firefighters

April 22, 2001|By Laura Barnhardt | Laura Barnhardt,SUN STAFF

Cookie's Kitchen in Pasadena - home of the Mountain Road omelet - is the kind of place where regulars pour their own coffee and the banter is endless entertainment for the locals, especially when it escalates into a friendly bet or two.

One recent wager has evolved into an unusual fund-raiser for the families of police officers who have been killed, a brunch today to be served by the police chief and his commanders, with former Gov. William Donald Schaefer as maitre d'.

Cookie (Ruth N. Keiser to the Internal Revenue Service but Cookie to everyone else) says it all started when she bet Charles W. "Pete" Shaeffer, president of the recently formed One Hundred Club of Anne Arundel County, that she could sell more tickets than he could to the group's first dinner to benefit the families of firefighters and police officers killed in the line of duty.

Just to make it "interesting," Shaeffer suggested that the loser make breakfast for the winner.

Cookie is not the sort of woman to let sit at her lunch counter someone with the audacity to claim that he could beat her, especially at something like fund raising.

So she won, but then she started to regret it. "The man hasn't cooked an egg in his life," Cookie said.

She's happy to help anyone in need, which those who know her attest to. But she's not sure she wants Sheriff Shaeffer in her kitchen.

"I'll be calling the Riviera Beach Fire Department before I start cooking," Shaeffer said. "The volunteers there have been kind enough to send over an engine on Sunday, just in case."

In the meantime, dozens of people said they wanted to see Cookie seated for a change and Schaefer wearing a puffy chef's hat looking hopelessly confused by the griddle.

Shaeffer and Cookie - who also runs Cookie's City Line Diner on Fort Smallwood Road - saw an opportunity to raise even more money for the cause.

"People were willing to pay to see this one," Schaefer said.

So they decided to sell tickets to the spectacle this afternoon.

"I have been practicing my flipping technique with pancakes," said Shaeffer. "It's all in the wrist. I may go talk to the Orioles' pitching staff beforehand. The ceiling is kind of low in there."

Honored guests for today's event, including police commanders, will be waiting and busing tables.

"I'm sure there will be some people who are willing to pay to see that too," said Lt. Joseph E. Jordan, who will be among the servers.

Schaefer, the former governor, will probably be the restaurant host that day, Cookie said.

"His knees aren't so good," she said. "I don't want him carrying around trays."

Cookie expects a full house. "We can seat about 50 people, and I bet there will be people waiting in line," she said.

A sign out front advertises breakfast with the president, though it doesn't specify which president. It's not false advertising, Pete Shaeffer said - he is the president of the One Hundred Club, after all.

The sign has caught the eye of quite a few passers-by, too.

"People keep asking me, `What president?'" Cookie said.

Because Budweiser donated the sign that also carried its logo, it also caught the attention of liquor board inspectors who weren't as intrigued by the advertised presidential appearance as they were by Cookie's lacking a liquor license. (Regulars say the coffee is so good that it's far more addictive.)

Local regulators paid a visit recently, but when Cookie explained that beer isn't on the menu today, the inspectors were amused by the fund-raiser, she said.

They said they might even come back for the brunch.

The event was especially appealing to the local officials, not only because of the cause, but also because they've suffered through enough humorless $100-a-plate benefits.

Today's $10-a-person brunch promises to be fun and delicious - perhaps for everyone but Cookie.

While she'll be eating Shaeffer's cooking, others won't.

Everyone else paying to eat is guaranteed a good meal because Shaeffer has promised: "I'm not the chef for the entire afternoon. She'll be the one cooking for everyone else."

The brunch will be held from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. at Cookie's Kitchen, 4108 Mountain Road in Pasadena.

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