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Serving up dishes in preparation for Shrimpfest

January 29, 2019

Gabe Grewell remembers the first couple of years he served as the head chef for Shrimpfest.

The 52-year-old Odessa native explained Monday he would be wound up and have high anxiety when the cooking started until the fundraising event was finished.

Yet, during the last decade, Grewell’s anxiousness and nerves slowly faded away and now it’s all about having fun as the Ellen Noël Art Museum hosts the 33rd annual Shrimpfest Fundraiser from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. Feb. 25 at the Ector County Coliseum Building G.

“Those very first years (I was so tense) for three days,” said Grewell, who took over the head chef duties in 2006. “Everyone would say, ‘Relax, you got this,’ but my name was on it.

“Many of the same guys helped over and over … Now I don’t get nervous at all.”

Liz Roberson, the board president at the art museum, expects between 900 and 1,200 people to attend the event. She added 1,200 is a high number that the event has achieved a handful of times in the past, but the constant is around 900 to 1,000.

Grewell said he will cook between 1,200 to 1,600 pounds of shrimp every year. The consistency in the kitchen is appreciated by Roberson.

“It’s so special to have him, because we literally couldn’t do it without him,” Roberson said. “Gabe just makes it fun for everybody and he’s a great chef.”

Grewell’s sells industrial valves and actuators for his daily line of work, but enjoys cooking as a hobby. He said the joy his food brings people is the main reason for wanting to be in the kitchen.

“That’s the reason I do it is to give back to the community in that way through the ability to feed people,” Grewell said. “That’s kind of innate in my inner fiber.”

Since Grewell is part of Odessa’s Chuck Wagon Gang, Shrimpfest has the opportunity to use its facilities on the grounds of the Ector County Coliseum.

Roberson said she is thankful the Chuck Wagon Gang allows the fundraiser to use its building for Shrimpfest. She said the shrimp is prepared in the Chuck Wagon Gang building and transported through the Ector County parking lot to Building G.

Roberson said Shrimpfest is the art museum’s biggest fundraiser.

However, Roberson said the toughest challenge for the art museum is getting new businesses to join.

“Sometimes we are successful with that and sometimes we’re not,” Roberson said. “It does make it a challenge especially in West Texas where you have a boom and bust and we live through that every year. It’s going to happen and we do the best we can.

“To make it grow, we have to get the new people in. It’s always a challenge.”

Tickets for Shrimpfest can be purchased on the art museum’s website.

Attendees can purchase sponsored tables that seat between 16 to eight people and general admission that are $40 in advance or $45 at the door. There will also be a live auction, silent auction and raffle.

In addition to Shrimpfest, the art museum will have two more fundraisers throughout the year.

There will be a clay shoot in August and West Texas Fest that includes a cornhole tournament, country music, Texas beer and spirit tasting and food trucks.

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