Love of cooking brings LaPlace man satisfaction

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, May 19, 2004

By SUE ELLEN ROSS – Staff Reporter

LAPLACE – Billy Powell is known around town for his tasty dishes of meatballs and spaghetti, dirty rice and other culinary delights. But he doesn’t own a restaurant, nor does he run a catering business.

The LaPlace man is a volunteer for numerous organizations, as well as assisting individuals and families with fund-raising events. He cooks everything from individual dinners to pots of food for 200 diners.

Nestled in between his kitchen at home and garage is his work area, which includes industrial-sized pots and a large stove. “I do quite a bit of cooking in there,” said Powell. He also prepares in other kitchens for organizations, when available.

The love of cooking began about 30 years ago, according the seasoned chef. He carried that skill into his marriage, and then into his volunteer work at Riverside Academy, where his daughters, Stephanie and Melanie, were students.

He started as a member of the PTO, became vice-president and also served as president. Sandwiched between those duties and his regular job at Dow Chemical, came the volunteer cooking.

“It began with the annual Spring Festival,” said Powell. “We made and sold hundreds of dinners.”

He and wife Barbara also had their own fund-raisers for both daughters, when they were in the running for the Carnival Ball court at Riverside Academy.

All of this delicious food led to word-of-mouth praises that Billy Powell had great cooking talents. He then made himself available to numerous fund-raisers.

The rest is history.

What makes this volunteer so dedicated is that he is giving up so much of his free time to help others.

“I used to work shift work, and that worked out, since many of the events were lunches,” he said. “But now I am on a straight day shift.”

Which means that he must use vacation days to offer his volunteer service.

But he wouldn’t have it any other way.

“It’s a good feeling that you are part of something that benefits others,” he said. “And it’s nice to see people enjoy the food.”

He added that volunteering is, “definitely rewarding” on all sides of the experience. “They are grateful that I am able to do this,” he said. “And we have a good time while doing it.”

Retirement from Dow is years down the road, and Powell doesn’t know exactly where he will be at that time. But he doesn’t rule out a second career in cooking. “You never know,” he laughed.