Chili Cook-off planned for Feb. 1 in Blairsville
January 23, 2014 10:50 AM

BLAIRSVILLE — The Blairsville Elks and the Ladies Auxiliary of the Friends of Blairsville Parks & Recreation Foundation will sponsor a Chili Cook-off Feb. 1 at the Elks Club.

A panel of five judges will select the best chili in three categories: red, green and home style. A People’s Choice Award will go to the cook who garners the most votes during the tasting, and showmanship awards will also be presented.

Judging the event, scheduled for 7 to 9 p.m., will be Blairsville Mayor Ron Evanko; Jim Struzzi, president of the Indiana County Chamber of Commerce; chef John Mitchell; chef Dennis Gehly, of the Indiana County Technology Center; and chef Rhonda Braatz.

Braatz, who has been in the restaurant and catering business for many years, has managed restaurants in Stowe, Vt.; Cape Cod, Mass.; and Scottsdale, Ariz., and has catered for Art and Greta Rooney, Tommy Hilfiger, Theresa Heinz and others. Recently, Braatz and her husband operated The James Campbell House in Blairsville as well as a wellness/exercise ministry.

Money raised through the cook-off will be used for local community projects.

The fee to enter the contest is $15, which includes the taster’s fee. For those who only want to taste the chilis, a $10 taster’s fee will be charged that includes a sample of each chili, while supplies last; chili fixings; cornbread; a side; and dessert.

Entrants may enter more than one chili; a separate entry fee will be charged for each one. Organizers recommend that each person entering the contest make 75 servings of chili (about 8 quarts).

Each cook will be provided with a station for his or her chili, including a table, chairs, tasting cups, tasting spoons, napkins, a power source and signage. Cooks may decorate their stations.

The winner of the People’s Choice Award is influenced by the cook’s showmanship skills, organizers said. Having a unique chili and a festive table, as well a tasty chili, will garner more voters.

Entrants must fill out a registration form by Jan. 30. The number of registration slots is limited.

Cooks should arrive between 6 and 6:30 p.m. to start setting up.

Each cook may have two people to help them (if they want to be tasters, they must register as tasters and pay the fee).

All cooks should bring their chili in a slow cooker with a ladle or two for serving and an extension cord.

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