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Cooks Bring the Heat at Chili Cookoff

Happy Chili took first place in the Small Showmanship category at Sunday's Chili Cookoff at Brewer's Beach.Sunday’s 30th Annual Texas Society of the Virgin Islands Chili Cookoff brought its biggest crowd yet to Brewers Beach to sample the homemade chilis of this year’s unprecedented 88 contestants.

While Sunday morning was gray and rainy, by the time the Chili Cookoff was in full swing the weather was “Chamber of Commerce perfect,” said Paul Cater Deaton, stage manager of the event. Deaton estimated attendance was greater even that the cookoff’s record of 6,000, as the bars had already run out of ice once before 1 p.m. The 88 restaurants, businesses, organizations, families, and friends who came together showed of their best chili cooking skills.

St. Thomas’ Chili Cookoff is overseen by the rules of the Chili Appreciation Society International (CASI.) The winner of the St. Thomas Cookoff goes on to compete in the International Chili Championship in Terlingua, Texas, from Oct. 30 through Nov. 1.

Cooks competed in multiple categories, but to qualify for the trip to Texas only certain ingredients could be used, and the chilis had to be cooked on Brewers Beach. The cooking of the competitive chilis was also overseen by 80 judges. In a double-blind taste test, judges rated the entries on five qualities: texture, color, appearance, taste, and after taste.

In the Meat category, Trish Hardy’s Chillaxing Chili took first place – for which she will book a flight to Terlingua to compete. Tori Abbots finished second and Warren Murphy’s Happy Daze was third.

Banco Popular took first place slot in the Vegetable Chili category, with Big Kahuna and the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary in second and third place, respectively.

Magnificent 7 came in first in the large Showmanship group, followed by Heidi’s in second, and the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary in third.

Happy Chili took first place in the small Showmanship category, followed by Pistarkle Theater in second, while Royal Anchor Bar and Paradise Delishness tied for third.

Chili Cookoff organizers estimated this year's event may have drawn the biggest crowd in the event's 30-year history.The names of the chilis ran the gamut, from “Surfer on Acid” cooked up by Matt Denton for Rum Shandy and featuring toasted star anise, black pepper, cumin, and a Jaegermeister floater, and “Luau in Yo Mouth” by Orlando Diaz and a group of friends and family, featuring all things Hawaiian, including pineapple and bacon.

Perhaps the only element the many chilis really had in common was a secret ingredient each cook, such as Denton and Diaz, consider their secret weapons. Despite the heat, happy chili fans sampled dozens of vegetarian, CASI compliant meat, and more creative chilis to the smooth sounds of the bands Full Circle, Flip Switch, and Why Not.

The Cookoff is more than just a good time for thousands of Virgin Islanders. After expenses, one hundred percent of the proceeds go to local charities and non-profit organizations, according to Erik Ackerson, president of Texas Society of the V.I. Queen Louise Home, Dial-A-Ride, and the Family Resource Center are the three major beneficiaries, but other local organizations also reap the benefits.

St. Thomas Sport and Social Club, 340 Boxing, St. Thomas Sail and Power Squadron, and We Grow Food Inc. volunteer at the cookoff. These groups, and others, manned set-up of the bar, bartending, parking, and trash clean-up.

The 2013 cookoff raised roughly $80,000, according to Ackerson, who also expressed his confidence that 2014’s cookoff would raise even more. Ackerson went on to say that this is the first year the society has awarded two $1,000 scholarships to one student each from Charlotte Amalie High School and Ivanna Eudora Kean High School to attend the University of the Virgin Islands – a scholarship the society will continue to award for the next ten years.

Ackerson smiled as he said, “The whole idea, long term, that we’ve finally achieved, is we’ve created a sustainable community fundraiser.”
Local Cooks Bring the Heat at the 30th Annual Texas Society of the Virgin Islands Chili Cookoff

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