Around Town: Delray sisters running for glory on track

By Thom Smith

     Running may be the purest form of athletic endeavor, but except for the Olympics and the Boston Marathon, it is virtually ignored. So most people have never heard of the Schapperts.
    Oh sure, folks connected with Pope John Paul II High School know. And the cognoscenti at Villanova and USA Track and Field. But with a lot of skill and a little luck, Nicole and Stephanie may soon make headlines.
    Credit brains, brawn and genetics. Both were honor students. Though slight of stature, both are built for distance. Mom and dad, too, were superb athletes: Kenny Schappert was an international class runner at Villanova; Jane Ackerman Schappert was an All-American swimmer at Cardinal Newman and Villanova. Her kids have a good chance of joining her in the Palm Beach County Sports Hall of Fame. They live in Delray Beach.

Stephanie Schappert (right) hugs sister Nicole Schappert Tully at the finish line after her victory June 28 in the USA Track and Field championships women’s 5,000-meter event in Eugene, Ore. Stephanie had just wrapped up her own college running career with the title of Mid-Atlantic Region Athlete of the Year, awarded by the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association. Photo provided

    In a surprise finish June 28 at the U.S. championships in Eugene, Ore., 28-year-old Nicole Schappert Tully won the women’s 5,000-meter title in 15:06.44. The race was only her second ever at that distance.
While at Pope John Paul, Tully won 10 state track titles and then led Villanova to an undefeated season and NCAA cross-country championship in 2009. She graduated magna cum laude the following spring but continued to run while working for Canon’s printer division. She did take time out last summer. She and Sean Tully, another Villanova distance runner, married at St. Edward Catholic Church in Palm Beach. The reception was held at the Gulf Stream Bath & Tennis Club.
    The couple now lives in Piscataway, N.J., and Nicole runs for the NJ/NY Track Club. Her 15:05 time in her first 5,000 in May qualified her for the World Championships that open Aug. 22 in Beijing.
    Sister Stephanie isn’t far behind. She wrapped her college career at Villanova at the NCAA Championships in mid-June. She finished sixth in the 1,500 meters with a time of 4:16.01. Two weeks before she ran a personal best of 4:13.26. The U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association named her Mid-Atlantic Region Athlete of the Year for the outdoor season.
    Her 1,500 time qualified her for the World University Games in South Korea. Nicole had finished eighth in the same event in 2013. Stephanie ran 4:19.83, missing a bronze medal by .06 seconds.
    No doubt we’ll be hearing a lot more.
    For Boca Raton firefighter and amateur chef Alex Callegari, the honors keep coming. But his big shot on a national stage left him with a rancid taste. At Anheuser-Busch’s Bud & Burgers national finals, held July 11 in the parking lot at the home brewery in St. Louis, Callegari’s Ladder 7 Burger finished third. But according to many accounts, the event was a disaster, and several competitors, who qualified through regional competitions, believe they were set up.
    A $100,000 grand prize was on the line for the 10 finalists. They would prepare sufficient samples of their award-winning burgers to feed 1,000 fans who paid $20 each for the opportunity to sample each entry and then vote by text for their favorite. From the top three, a panel of food experts would choose the winner. Needless to say, organizers were caught unprepared when an estimated 5,000 showed up.
    On its Bud & Burgers website, Anheuser-Busch claimed the burgers ran out 15 minutes early, but several qualifiers disagreed, including Callegari.
     “I was serving up to 8 p.m. I still had some burgers left,” Callegari told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
    He’d seen it coming, warning organizers in an email on July 2 that most attendees would have difficulty downing what amounted to two and a half giant burgers and would vote after sampling only a few.
    The tasting was not blind. Attendees knew whose burgers they were voting for.
    The playing field wouldn’t be level, he said, because the two finalists from St. Louis would enjoy the luxury of having voting support from friends and family.  If one makes the top three, “it would create an air of doubt and mistrust to the fairness of the event,” he wrote.
    The cooking began at 5 p.m. but at 8 p.m. with many people still in line, some waiting for their first sample, serving was halted, so the judges could choose among the top three.
“Just about every single item I pointed out became a reality,” Callegari said after returning to Florida. “At most cook-offs they treat the finalists pretty well. You’re a brand ambassador. But Busch just flew us in, put us to work and flew us out. We didn’t even get a tour of the brewery.”
    The disappointment goes deeper because Callegari’s contest winnings go to funds such as the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation.
    Four days after the event, the finalists received an email from organizers: “Budweiser is extremely supportive of the culinary ambitions of our amateur chefs, so we’d like to offer each contestant $3,000 to offset your tax burdens, along with a limited-edition grill to thank you for your participation.”
    Wow, a free grill.
    “It’s not the first time I got a bad decision,” Callegari said. “I’ll get back in the ring and fight again.”
    As for Anheuser-Busch, perhaps a future contest should feature eggs, since they’ll have plenty to scrape off their faces after Bud & Burgers.
    Who better to practice the healing qualities of music than doctors, 14 of whom will gather Aug. 18 at “the Harriet” in CityPlace in West Palm Beach for the fourth annual Physicians Talent Showcase. OK, one, Dr. Robin Arrigo, is a concert pianist who earned a doctorate of musical arts degree from the University of Miami, but for the others music helps them heal after a hard day’s work at several area hospitals.  
    Among those performing at the 7:30 p.m. concert, a fundraiser for the Kretzer Piano Music Foundation’s music education programs for children, are Jack Zeltzer and Peggy Hunter. A vascular surgeon associated with Palm Beach Surgical Associates, Palms West Hospital, Wellington Regional Medical Center and JFK Medical Center, Zeltzer is a drummer. The Lake Worth resident also is past president of the Palm Beach County Medical Society. Hunter, a resident of Boca Raton associated with PBC Dermatology and JFK Medical Center, is a classical pianist. For tickets, $75, call (866) 449-2489.
    Great pairing: Three of the most innovative performers in the pop music world are heading to Coral Sky Amphitheatre for an auspicious Aug. 12 concert. Rockabye Gollie Angel may be a strange name for a tour, but with Messrs. Becker and Fagen involved, the only thing strange is normalcy. Joining Walter Becker and Donald Fagen, aka Steely Dan, is Elvis Costello and the Imposters.
    Coral Sky was initially scheduled as the tour wrapper, but the troupe will continue on to an October climax in New York. Based on early tour reviews, it could be one of Coral Sky’s all-time classic shows.
    GEO Group, the for-profit private prison company based in Boca Raton, exceeded income and profit expectations for 2014, raking in $1.69 billion, up 11 percent from 2013. Despite opening or expanding six prisons with room for 5,000 inmates, including three in Florida, the company’s profits rose even more — 25 percent to $115 million. All told, GEO manages 106 facilities with more than 19,000 employees.
    The 19,000 figure likely doesn’t include the detainees who were offered an unusual “opportunity” at a center in Aurora, Colo. According to a suit filed in federal court in Denver, detainees awaiting deportation hearings were offered the option of doing janitorial work — scrubbing toilets, mopping floors, doing laundry and serving meals — for $1 a day. Some who declined, the suit claims, were threatened with solitary confinement.
    GEO denies the charges and argues that the dollar-a-day payment follows federal guidelines, which were set in 1950 and have never been changed.  

ABOVE: Chefs Victor Meneses from El Camino and Eric Baker from Max’s Harvest laugh during Week 3 of Chef vs. Chef.

What’s cookin’?
    Summer used to be slow time. Sit back, chomp a few Cheetos, drink a cheap beer and watch baseball on low-def TV. But life has gone high-def — an aisle full of snack foods, a different craft beer every day and too many sports to count. So it stands to reason that savvy local restaurants have capitalized, turning slow time into opportunity. The guy in the kitchen is hot, in more ways than one.
    The brains behind Max’s Harvest in Delray seized the opportunity to create a little summer buzz, generate a little late night action and raise some cash for the Naoma Donnelley Haggin Boys & Girls Club in Delray Beach with Chef vs. Chef. The TV-style competition matches 16 area chefs in eight weeks of mano-a-mano eliminations, quarter- and semifinals and a championship round Sept. 23.
    Upward of 200 patrons, many of them regulars at the restaurants of the competitors, pay $10 each (includes one drink) to pack into Max’s Harvest each Wednesday at 9:30 p.m. The two chefs are informed of the required ingredients, given 15 minutes to plan their attack and then have an hour to prepare two dishes in the open kitchen.
     In Week 3, the secret ingredients for Victor Meneses of nearby El Camino and Victor Franco of Oceans 234 in Deerfield Beach were Asian noodles, malanga (a tropical, potato-like tuber) and beef cheeks. The chop, chop, chop of chef’s knives and the clanking of pots often gave way to flaring sauté pans as they worked their magic. Franco, a fan of Floribbean cuisine, utilized every second before delivering the three judges a crispy malanga and scallop fritters with spicy mango sauce, while Meneses countered with a malanga “dumpling” filled with shredded beef cheek, seared diced Granny Smith apples, and pancetta accompanied by a salad of shaved fennel, ginger and herbs.

ABOVE: Chef Victor Franco from Oceans 234 shows his dish. The final elimination round is set for Aug. 5 at Max’s Harvest in Delray Beach. Photos courtesy Kelly Coulson

    Franco then presented beef cheeks braised in a port wine reduction with cinnamon and herbs with taro root and a malanga puree. But Meneses’  beef cheek pad thai garnished with toasted hazelnuts, pine nuts and crispy malanga chips, and beef cheek ramen topped with grilled scallions and poached quail eggs, nestled in broth fortified with smoked soy blew the judges away.
    The final elimination round is set for Aug. 5 between Chris Miracolo of S3 on Fort Lauderdale Beach and Blake Malatesta of Delray’s 50 Ocean.  
    Franco was hardly dismayed by the loss as he has lots of work ahead at Oceans 234, which is being completely renovated.
    Comings and goings: After a two-month delay, Tap 42 finally opened in mid-July at the Shops at Boca Center. A popular Lauderdale spot for years, Tap 42, as in 42 beers on draft, is craft beer-based but customers are also drawn to such menu items as the Prohibition Burger, only $5 on Monday nights.
    After 39 years, 264 The Grill in Palm Beach has served its last lobster. The building, a Roaring ’20s-era Addison Mizner design, has been sold and restaurant owners Patricia Gatti and Avery Watson were given a week to vacate. They’re looking for a new location.
    Fans of Sunday’s jazz jams can still catch the Susan Merritt Trio at Zuccarelli’s on Okeechobee Boulevard in West Palm Beach.
    The Fourth of July weekend pumped new life into Lake Worth’s Bamboo Room. The trial reopening of the club attracted more than 1,600 customers, more than enough to persuade the new owners to continue the trial.
    Plans are to open Friday and Saturday nights through the summer and early autumn and then expand to a five-night schedule.
    Owners Ryan Mueller and Blaine Minton will continue the live music tradition, but will probably add a small cover charge, offer a light sandwich-based menu and expand on the roots music format established by the club’s founder Russ Hibbard. Blues and jazz will be supplemented by rock, country, reggae and more.
    We reported last month that Pizzeria Oceano, the extremely popular personal pizza joint in Lantana, was no longer serving pizza, as owner Dak Kerprich was moving the pie operation to Swell Pizza in Delray. Well, the name Pizzeria is gone and the Oceano part seems to be leaving. The new name, Jerk
Oceano, is shortened Irie-style to “Jerk O.” The fare still features local products, but the menu is Caribbean — pineapple and black rice salad, red shrimp and rice with curry, scallion, and okra and jackfruit cream pie for dessert.
    All is well at Benny’s on the Beach. In fact, business may have picked up a little as the curious joined the regulars to see the aftereffects of a small fire traced to a faulty electrical outlet near the kitchen. Startled kitchen workers jumped the pier railing, but firefighters, who were on the scene within minutes, said it was more smoke than fire. Dining resumed within an hour.  
    No sooner had the Florida Legislature approved half-gallon growlers, those easy-fill take-home jugs, than another craft brewer announced plans to open in Boynton Beach. Driftwood Ales hopes to be in full operation this fall only a stone’s throw from Due South Brewing and Copper Point Brewing just north of Gateway Boulevard on the west side of I-95.  
    Coincidentally, Steve and Tim Dornblaser came up with the idea for their home-brew company and Driftwood’s predecessor, Lagerhead Brewing Company, while sampling the suds at Due South. It’s a family thing.
    At the south end of Boynton just east of Congress in space No. 4 at 1500 SW 30th Ave., Chip and Trish Breighner have gone from kitchen-brewing to Devour Brewing. Much more modest than the guys up in north Boynton — a few tables, a small bar and some stools — Devour features imaginative brews such as Hefe on Vacation, Coffee and Cream Brown Ale, Juniper Berry Saison and Chocolate Peanut Butter Porter (that’s a mouthful!).
    St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Lake Worth presents “A Summer Evening in Tuscany,” its 10th annual wine and cuisine event at 4 p.m. on Aug. 9. A donation of $25 in advance, $30 at the door, affords Tuscan dishes and appropriate wines from Massoferrato Winery near Florence. (582-6609 or

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