Chili cook-off spices up life, food banks

Duane Hicks

The Fort Frances Chamber of Commerce’s “Great Canadian Chili Cook-off and Cake Roulette” was a success last Wednesday, not only treating a hungry public to a variety of chili made by local groups but reaping a harvest of non-perishable items for local food banks.
The Fort Frances Public Library Technology Centre, a first-time participant in the annual cook-off, was crowned as the 2010 champs.
With teams asked to choose an international theme for their chili, the library staff based theirs on the Chilean miners who were trapped for 69 days.
The team’s motto was: “Feeling trapped? You don’t need to wait 69 days for a rescue. ‘Rescue Me Chile’ is here!”
“Yay, team,” librarian Janet Bell enthused shortly after winners were announced.
“It’s all about fun and good news,” said fellow staffer Penny Shumaker. “It was a fun competition and we had fun with our neighbours [the FFHS team of Ashley DeBenedet and Jessica Mainville].”
Librarian Bonnie Shute tracked down the recipe, which came from—where else—a library book called “Whitewater Cooks Cookbook.”
“Two or three of the employees took the recipe home and tried it out first, then we adjusted the seasoning,” Shute noted.
Although she said the chili ended up containing quite a few peppers, it wasn’t too hot—but obviously tasty enough to win over the three judges.
The team also was fully into their theme, serving up chili wearing miners’ helmets with lanterns on them while listening to the Motown song, “Rescue Me.”
Judges Tannis Drysdale, Lillian Gerley (UPS Store), and chef Todd Moxham chose Boston Pizza’s Greek chili as their second-place choice, followed closely by Shaw’s French in third.
Meanwhile, the CIBC was named the People’s Choice winners by members of the public who taste-tested all of the 11 varieties and then voted for their favourites.
They got 31 votes for their Canadian-themed chili to win, followed closely by Shaw (30 votes) and Fort Frances Public Library Technology Centre (19 votes), with the remaining votes split between any number of teams.
CIBC team member Krista Gushulak said they were thrilled to hear of their win, adding they received positive comments from the public throughout the event.
“We were surprised because it was a different type of chili we made,” she admitted.
“It was a sweet chili, and we didn’t know which way people were going to go with it.”
Gushulak noted the branch staff brainstormed about what kind of chili to make. At the end of the day, the recipe was provided by co-worker Elaine Porter, who brought it from Nova Scotia.
The chili consisted of bacon, ground beef, barbecue sauce, brown sugar, and several other ingredients, served on a bed of white rice.
Gushulak said the People’s Choice plaque will be proudly displayed at the local CIBC branch.
“We had a lot of fun, and we’ll definitely go in it again,” she remarked. “The rest of the staff said they’ll participate next year.
“They saw all the fun we were having.”
This year’s cook-off featured 11 teams, each adopting an particular country or region.
Rounding out the field were Seven Generations Team ‘A’ (Italy) and Team ‘B’ (China), Gillons’ Insurance Brokers (Jamaica), Holmlund Financial (Hawaii), TD Bank (Mexico), Rainycrest (Spice of Life), and FFHS students Jessica Mainville and Ashley DeBenedet (Tahiti).
While they didn’t win, DeBenedet and Mainville, who are taking teacher Kelly Connor’s hospitality course, said they had a good time at the cook-off.
“It was fun,” Mainville said of the experience.
“It was exciting,” echoed DeBenedet. “It was a good experience.
“We’ve never done anything like this before.”
DeBenedet explained their chili was picked to be entered after it won in a cook-off between classmates. Teachers judged the chili during their lunch break.
The duo said their recipe included a couple types of chiles, bacon grease, and beer, among other ingredients, with pineapple provided as a garnish.
Food drive
 Last Wednesday’s cook-off also was a drive for local food banks, where people were encouraged to bring along non-perishable items.
The food got a major boost when Link-Line Contractors Ltd. rep Tom Fowler handed Chamber president Cathy Emes a cheque for $5,000 to buy items for local food banks.
Link-Line is the company that has been replacing natural gas line for Union Gas throughout Fort Frances.
“It has been a pleasure working in the Fort Frances community for the past two years,” Link-Line Contractors Ltd. president Rick Delaney in a statement.
“Link-Line would like to thank the residents for their patience, understanding, and support of our construction crews.
“As we wrap up this project, we would like to give a small token of our appreciation back to the community,” Delaney added.
“Link-Line made the event a true success, coming out and making that huge donation to the community,” lauded Chamber manager Anthony Mason.
“That’s what this event is—a community event where businesses come out and put on a pot of chili.”
Mason added the public also donated “at least a couple hundred pounds of food.”
As previously reported, as part of the “Fill the Food Banks” initiative, every pound donated by the community will be matched by both Shaw and Campbell’s—tripling that to 600 pounds of food.
“Fill the Food Banks” will continue through Nov. 15.
The public can continue to donate non-perishable items until then at The Place, Robert Moore School, Family & Children’s Service, Shaw’s office, the Fort Frances Public Library Technology Centre, and the Chamber office.