HUNDREDS DESCENDED on West Philadelphia yesterday to munch on meatballs, scarf down salads and vacuum up velvet mini-cakes at Real Men Cook, an annual event meant to celebrate fathers who take active roles in their families.

Sherman Price, 55, owner of Papa-Daddy's Culinary Cuisine, was one of 70 cooks who gathered at 38th and Market streets to feed about 1,200 people who came to the food-tasting.

"I heard about it a few years ago and figured I'd go see what the big hype was about," Price said as he watched his 13-year-old son, Isaiah, pass out cups of Polish sauerkraut and smoked-turkey sausage.

"It's my first time, [and] it's wonderful," said Price, who had some people coming back for seconds, or even thirds.

Yesterday marked the fifth Father's Day that it has been held in Philadelphia, but it has been going on nationally for 20 years.

Bruce Rush, who planned the event, said that the proceeds, which will be close to $15,000, if previous years are any mark, will go to Real Men Charities, a nonprofit organization that helps "create and sustain healthy families, particularly with an emphasis on men and communities of color."

Some proceeds would go to Communities in Schools of Philadelphia, a nonprofit that encourages kids to stay in school, Rush said.

Chefs of all abilities came - caterers and restaurant managers, cooking students and everyday dads (and some moms).

Ivan Wallace, 47, of Wynnefield, handed out curried plantains, kale and crushed nuts smothered in a vibrant yellow sauce.

"I'm a live-food chef," Wallace said, meaning that none of his dishes are cooked.

"This is the way it should be," he said.

Wallace, a physicist-turned-chef of the fledgling Live Ive's Starfire Cuisine, moved to Philadelphia in 2003 to care for his ailing father.

Desean Taylor, 20, pitched his spicy shellfish-free jambalaya to anyone who got within arm's reach. He used Old Bay and Italian seasoning to create a seafood flavor without using actual sea critters, he said, for people who are allergic to shellfish, such as his brother.

"Anyone can tell a person how to cook," said Taylor, who is studying culinary arts and restaurant-hotel management at Community College of Philadelphia (and isn't a father). "But it takes a real person to know how to cook."

Donavan Fountain, 30, of Havertown, a first-timer at the event, served goat cheese and spinach turnovers based on the ones his mother used to feed him when he was younger.

"She made a version of [them] but not with spinach, because she couldn't force us to eat spinach," he said.

Like most of the cooks there, he could have been home with his daughter, Alysha, 10.

"But if it's doing something . . . with the community, I'm for it," Fountain said. *