Veggie chili takes judges’ choice

Good chili doesn’t necessarily need meat—which was discovered at the Fort Frances Museum’s “Great Chili Cook-off” held Friday at Warp 9.
Of the 12 varieties vying for top honours, local NDP candidate John Rafferty wowed judges Mike Gerstner, Brenda Cox, and Billy Buschberger with his “Vote for Me” vegetarian chili.
The Wolf 92.3 fm Border Rock, meanwhile, took home the Fort Frances General Supply People’s Choice Award.
“I choose to make a vegetarian chili because every one would have meat and I wanted to try something different,” Rafferty explained afterwards.
“I wanted to see if the judges liked the extra choice—and I guess they did.”
Rafferty noted he had never made that kind of chili before, but was happy with the way it turned out.
“There’s always a bit of resistance because, really, chili should be made with beef,” he conceded.
Rafferty used a secret ingredient of lime, which he thought may have helped with his victory.
“The lime flavour in it is memorable for most people,” he noted. “And when I think vegetarian, I think Caribbean.”
In addition, he claimed his organic corn bread muffins were an added bonus.
“Everyone liked the muffins,” Rafferty stressed, noting they were made fresh, with the first batch being put in the oven by 6:45 a.m. that morning.
“The Wolf” employee Luke Cawston noted he and his teammates—Leanne Cameron and Brent Derosiers—had a secret ingredient for their “Wolf Chili” but wouldn’t reveal what it was.
“There were a couple key ingredients, but it’s not really about the taste of the chili—it’s all PR,” he suggested. “We were walking around getting everyone to vote for us, bugging everyone at the tables.
“I think some felt obligated to vote for ‘Wolf Chili.’
“But with our chili, the flavour hits you first, followed by a lingering burn,” he chuckled.
Cawston stressed his team has a good time participating and enjoyed tasting the other types of chili on hand.
“We went in and wanted to win, but we went in just because we had never before and I’m Chef Boy-Ar-Luke,” he added, saying they will participate again next year.
“Of course we’re going to do it next year for sure,” he voiced. “We have to defend the People’s Choice championship. I’m looking forward to it.”
And while Rafferty has been told he’ll have to defend his judges’ choice title, he’d prefer to be a judge in next year’s cook-off.
“It was a wonderful event,” he remarked, adding the judges must have had a hard time because all the chilies were good. “It wasn’t my goal to win, but to support the museum.
“So I was surprised because when you think chili, you think tradition and you think beef.”
Museum curator Pam Hawley noted the cook-off went well, with about 240 people attending and more than $1,000 being raised for the museum renovation project.
Another $968 was gathered from the cake roulette hosted by Beta Sigma Phi and Robin Wright.
“It was very well-received and well-attended,” Hawley stressed. “We had some glitches, but we’ll resolve those for next year.”
The glitches she was referring to was an electrical problem which kept some of the hot plates from being powered.
“We went in there to set up and thought because bands set up in there, with amplifiers and instruments, we didn’t anticipate it would be a problem,” Hawley explained.
“But I guess it was.”
Still, she said everyone seemed to have a good time.
“The chefs were having fun and were enthusiastic,” she noted. “Lots of them were businesses or organizations, so it was kind of like a team-building exercise for them.”
She added she would like to hold the event again and already has had a team sign up for next year.
Hawley thanked the dozen volunteers who helped run the event, as well as the teams, the cake bakers, and everyone who attended.