Wednesday, January 29, 2014

On a bitter cold night, chili cookoff heats things up

By Darius Owens and Hayley Minogue
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications

The church fellowship hall was nearly full. (Photo by Darius Owens)
A bitter cold may be filling the January air, but people brought the heat for the Midway Christian Church’s annual chili cook-off Monday night.

The event, which drew a near-capacity crowd to the MCC Fellowship Hall, saw the people of Midway come together in competition and as a community.

“People come, have a good meal, have fun, and get to know your neighbors,” said the Rev. Heather McColl, the church’s pastor. The event is one of the monthly community dinners the church hosts.

With 14 contending recipes, it was a friendly but vigorous contest to be called No. 1. The pleasant aroma of different sauces, meats, and seasonings filled the hall as people took their seats and talked to their friends.

After McColl announced the number of contestants, assigned each an anonymous number, and retrieved samples for the judges, the crowd lined up to grab a bowl and savor the variety of chili prepared for the event.

McColl said the judging criteria varies by who’'s on the panel. “It’s up to them how they want to judge,” McColl said. “We just need a first place, a second place, and a third place. Whatever the judges decide … it’s all up to them.”

Bruce Southworth (Photo by Erin Grigson)
City Council Member Bruce Southworth, right, was a last-minute addition to the panel of judges this year. “I didn’t find out until 5 o’clock,” he said, from Mayor Tom Bozarth, who asked him to fill in for a judge who couldn’t attend. His method of choosing his winner was pretty simple: “I like it a little spicy . . . Not so hot you can’t taste it, but gives you that bite back.”

This spice factor was the exact characteristic that made the top three chilis the best. The third-place winner was Wilda Caudle. The second-place winner was Theresa Hop. The winner, Gloria Batts, said she was surprised that she won.

“I’ve entered one every year, but I usually make mild … because people don’t like spicy sometimes,” said Batts. She said her chili was made with ground turkey, black and pinto beans, and simple McCormick spices from the store. “My husband won’t believe this at all.”

Caudle said she has been in many chili competitions and “I will never go down without a fight.” Being in third place is a new title for her; she has won and received second place in past cook-offs.

Ouita Michel and eaters (Photo by Hayley Minogue)
Ouita Michel, chef and owner of several local businesses, including Holly Hill Inn, Windy Corner Market, Wallace Station and Smithtown Seafood, said she enjoys challenging her family in cooking chili. “My husband has a bowl and my daughter has a bowl,” said Michel, who coordinates the dinners. “Right now I’m one and one – won one, lost one.”

The church offered a small prize to the winners of the contest, but the most important aspect of the event was the people.

“My favorite part is the fellowship of these dinners,” said Phillip Burchell, a member of the church. “I’ve been making chili for these competitions for as long as they’ve been here … around seven years ago.” Burchell said the cook-offs are always fun because” the competitive atmosphere thickens as judges decide the winner.

McColl put it this way: “It’s just a good time on a cold winter’s night.”

No matter what your chili preference, community was the common ingredient into a successful chili cookoff, Hayley Minogue of the Midway Messenger reports in this video package:

1 comment:

Johnny Mac said...

Nice write-up