By Ali Lucia

EDINA, Minn. (WCCO) — Twenty-seven years ago, Wayne Kostroski’s life changed forever.

In 1992, the Edina resident — known for Goodfellows, Tejas, Figlio and Bar Abilene — became the brains behind Taste of the NFL.

It all started as an idea — a way for the restaurateur to help hunger relief.

Then, Kostroski was president of the Minnesota Restaurant Association and served on the restaurant committee for Super Bowl 26. His goal was to bring a celebrity chef’s dinner featuring NFL players.

“It’s the best restaurant you’ll ever eat in, 40 chefs, different national icons,” Kostroski said. “If you’re into food, you just died and went to culinary heaven.”

That’s pretty much what it was like, back when the Redskins played the Bills in the old Metrodome.

“They made 28 calls and they got 28 players,” Kostroski said. “Archie Manning was one of the founding chefs and all these legends as well.”

Kostroski, who didn’t rally the players and chefs alone, said he had help from friends like former Viking Bob Lurtsema.

Chefs from every NFL city volunteer their expertise. Each donates 1,100 meals for the event that has made stops in every host city since then — places like New Orleans, New York, North Texas and most recently last year’s at the University of Houston.

To date, Taste of the NFL’s programs and events have raised and donated more than $25 million to food banks and nonprofit organizations in the 32 NFL cities. The money has helped provide meals for 200 million Americans in need.

“There’s so much excitement from the players and chefs because they know this is the year to come to Minnesota, to do this event because this is where it all started,” Kostroski said.

Kostroksi is hoping to score even bigger the second time around with hometown crowd.

Since the Vikings season has started, he and former Viking Ben Leber have hosted fundraising meals. The most recent ones were at Mission Kitchen in Minneapolis and the Lexington in St. Paul.

“I don’t feel an added pressure, I feel an added excitement,” Kostroski said. “This is the time for us to highlight a legacy event. There’s no other event that has lasted this long.”

In 1985, he asked to serve on the board for the St. Paul Food bank, which eventually turned into Second Harvest Heartland, and that’s where the Minnesota dollars will go, to a place that he calls the gold standard for hunger relief.

“There isn’t a corner that Second Harvest doesn’t affect,” Kostroski said.

He says if you’re going to make a party “pick” come Super Bowl week, put money down on Party with a Purpose.

“All the other big parties are going on, but nothing is going to feel more Minnesota and national than Party with a Purpose,” he said.

For more information on Taste of the NFL, click here.