Eleven top pastry chefs kicked off “Dessert First,” a gala benefiting Girl Scouts of Northeast Ohio.

Presented at Embassy Suites in Independence, 400 guests turned out for the fun-filled event and were treated to an array of desserts – creatively displayed and served – from the area’s most talented chefs.

The desserts were decadent and beautifully presented, many creatively utilizing Girl Scout cookies, such as Samoa’s and Thin Mints, for example, among the ingredients. Regional chefs enjoyed friendly competition and were judged by a panel of celebrity judges.

Chefs were judged on creativity, taste and table presentation. Judge’s choice first-place honors went to Urban Farmer; second place to LockKeepers and third place to Busy B Bakery. The judge’s choice for best table display was awarded to StoneWater Golf Club.

People’s Choice awards granted Flour Restaurant first place, Busy B second place and Urban Farmer third place.

The signature fundraiser of the Girl Scouts of NEO presented every two years, Dessert First helped to raise more than $110,000. Funds will benefit the GSNEO’s Fund-A-Need Campaign, which supports Girl Scout camping experiences.

Dessert First was presented by First Energy Foundation and chaired by Judith E. Matsko, who worked alongside a volunteer committee. Following dessert, the program included a welcome from Ms. Matsko, and the chef awards presentation by Dawn Kendrick of WKYC Channel 3 News.

Dinner of salmon and filet mignon was followed by a live auction and comments from Laura Watson Schultz, chair of the board of directors.

Headquartered in Macedonia, GSNEO serves nearly 30,000 girls and has 14,000 adult volunteers. GSNEO was formed in 2007 yet its history dates back to 1912 when the first-known Girl Scout troop in the area was started. STORY AND PHOTOGRAPHS BY SUE REID

Courtney Barnes and Marissa Mathews

Craig Butrick, Emma Scheer and Jenn Meyer

Ashley Hendricks and Lauren DaDante

Judith Matsko, Gail Fowler and Cheryl Stawicki

Laura Watson-Schultz, Elizabeth Rutachi “Sugarplum Fairy” and Jane Christyson

Roberta Trutko, Cindy Becker and Judy Wenneman