10/25/09 — Judges name top chili, funds raised for soup kitchen

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Judges name top chili, funds raised for soup kitchen

By Catharin Shepard
Published in News on October 25, 2009 2:00 AM

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Forced Annexation Debtors Prison Chain Gang team members Glenna Eckenrod, left, and Cornelia Grundmeier fill cups with their top-secret chili at the Really Chili Cookoff Saturday.

The third annual Really Chili Challenge benefit for the Goldsboro Community Soup Kitchen attracted hungry crowds and chili cooks ravenous for victory Saturday at Cornerstone Commons.

Soup kitchen director Andrea Heekin has worked with the cook-off since late radio personality Jerry Wayne suggested it as a way to raise money for the soup kitchen. The event started with just 13 teams and 75 attendees and continues to grow. This year, 23 teams and more than 350 people attended, making it the biggest chili cook-off yet.

"We are so excited, we have seen a great response to our event," Ms. Heekin said.

The contest has raised about $75,000 for the soup kitchen, and organizers hope to add another $15,000 or more from this year's competition.

The fundraiser was especially vital for the kitchen this year, said board member and competitor Scottie Weathers. The soup kitchen is now serving about 120 people a hot meal every day, a considerable increase from the average of about 90 people a day who were served in previous years, she said.

"This is such a fantastic cause, we are happy so many people are out here," Ms. Weathers said.

Her booth, the Skili Chili Creations entry, won the people's choice award in last year's competition. Their winning strategy was to have a good chili with lots of toppings available, such as sour cream, hot peppers and cheese, so chili lovers could craft their own favorite dish.

Tara Humphries donned a T-shirt and apron to help with the Wayne Community College Blazing Bisons booth. Students, faculty and staff of the college's Adult High School Dream Team volunteered to hand out samples of the vegetarian chili.

For the Dream Team, it was more about teamwork and community involvement than the chili itself, Ms. Humphries said.

"We succeed whether our chili is fantastic or not. Our success is that we have a great team," she said.

Chili cooker "Spicey Ricey" was a little more reluctant to share his recipe for success.

"I really won't tell you my secret, but one thing is not to leave too much grease in the chili," he said.

His team, sponsored by the Johnson-Russell Construc-tion Co., used old-fashioned cast iron pots for cooking the chili. He even grew his own hot peppers, but the chili he prepared for the cook-off wasn't too hot, he said.

"Depends on the crowd. A lot of people don't like it that hot," he said.

Some cooks used sirloin or ground turkey, and at least one booth used venison for the chili. Brenda Thompson of Downtown Deli put special focus on the beans for her wood-grilled chili, she said. She started soaking the pinto and kidney beans three days before the competition.

The "Hot Chili Chics" of the Downtown Deli booth got into the groove of the live performers, dancing to the music as they served samples of chili with crackers and spoons to the hungry crowd. It wasn't just fun, though, but for a worthy cause, Ms. Thompson said. Her restaurant often donates food to the soup kitchen and this year is donating all tips to Habitat for Humanity.

Cheryl Jeffries' chili had to endure a tough preliminary competition before she even made it to the cook-off. Thirteen other teams from Wayne Memorial Hospital were in the running, but "My Grandma's Chili" beat them all.

And she didn't even grow up making it, Mrs. Jeffries said.

"I'm from the north and I never made chili before," she said.

Her Southern husband passed away and left her with several recipes for chili, and when she moved to North Carolina in 1982, she started experimenting with the ingredients.

"You don't want it too hot, you want it to have the sweetness and the spice," Mrs. Jeffries said.

Southerners don't like it too hot, but for her, "it's never too hot," she said.

And to the victors went the bowls -- handcrafted, glazed chili bowls.

Bloody Brewed Chili claimed the prize for best name and also took home third place in the people's choice category. The First Presbyterian Church and Wayne Community College tied for second place in the people's choice award and the Loving Spoonful chili took home the top people's choice prize.

But the biggest award of the day went to the Southern Sanitation team's chili, which won first place in the cook-off. Second place went to the Squirrel Hut chili, while Dr. Chili's Germ-Kicking Chili claimed third place overall.

A team of judges representing county and city government, Seymour Johnson Air Force Base and local fire departments scored the chili in a blind taste test. Judges graded the chili based on taste, color, aroma and afterburn.