Monday, August 26, 2002

Chili cooks spice up competition

By Erica Solvig
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        NEWPORT - Dozens of cooks spent Sunday afternoon carefully measuring spices, cutting meat and perfecting recipes at the annual Kentucky State Chili Cookoff.

        The event, paired with a car show, brought an estimated 8,000 people to Riverboat Row for an afternoon of food and entertainment, said cook off chairman Robert McCray. Proceeds from the 13th annual event go to the Buenger Boys and Girls Club, which serves Campbell County.

        Cooking started at noon, and entries could not include spaghetti or beans. By 3 p.m., judges were evaluating the texture, aroma, color and taste of 28 red chili and 13 chili verde, or green chili, entries.

        “Everyone has their own idea of what chili should taste like, so this is not an exact science,” Mr. McCray said.

        The winners get $300 and the chance to compete in the International Chili Society's championship cook-off in Reno in October.

        For Jim Neves, who has competed in cook-offs for about five years, the key is good chili spices and quality meat.

        “Once you get a good chili, you just keep making it and hope the judges like it,” said the 41-year-old Troy resident while stirring his Onion-Head Chili.

        Other cooks, like George Phelps, frequently change their recipes. On Sunday, the 49-year-old Delhi resident was adding apples, watermelon and cantaloupe in with a variety of onions to make his Green Slime and Looney Stewhili.

        “I always make it different - it's whatever I decide to put in,” said Mr. Phelps, dressed in a chili pepper hat that complimented his multicolored booth, the Chili Rock Cafi. “So if I win, I'll have a hard time duplicating it. But I'll come close.”

        After entries were submitted, patrons could purchase samples at 50 cents each.

        “I've never had green chili before, but I think I could become a fan,” said Lori Farmer, a 40-year-old Covington resident. “I can tell you I need a drink though.”


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- Chili cooks spice up competition