Hot talk precedes Chili Cook-offChefs, start your slow cookers. It’s that time of year again — the time when area business owners and amateur cooks bring out their finest recipes as they go head to head in the United Way’s annual Chili Cook-Off.
By: Regan Carstensen, The Republican Eagle
Chefs, start your slow cookers.
It’s that time of year again — the time when area business owners and amateur cooks bring out their finest recipes as they go head to head in the United Way’s annual Chili Cook-Off.
The event makes for a fun and delicious way to raise money for the non-profit organization each October. Plus, the public is bound to benefit when nearly 25 teams try to upstage each other on flavor.
Then again, what’s a cooking competition without a few friendly rivalries?
If anyone is looking for entertainment over the next week, try walking into Hanisch Bakery or the Brickhouse Pub & Grille and talking up the other establishment’s chili. The two Red Wing restaurants have tossed the “People’s Choice” title around quite a bit in past cook-offs, and respective owners Bill Hanisch and Shaun Ryan are already on each other’s case about this year’s event.
“Me and him will occasionally call each other and just say, ‘My chili’s better’ and hang up,” Hanisch joked.
Ryan had no problem admitting he’s left a message or two on Hanisch’s answering machine.
“We’re trying to egg him on every year,” Ryan said of the Brickhouse team.
Each of the businesses is bringing very different flavors of chili to the table. Ryan plans to do just a little tweaking to his annual staple — Irish Mary chili.
“It’s made with Bloody Mary mix,” he said.
The Brickhouse team’s chili has been the favorite of judges for the past two years, so why fix something that’s not broken?
“It’s been doing so well, we can’t change it,” Ryan added.
Hanisch cooked up a beef brisket chili in 2010, but is going for a more sweet and tangy recipe this year.
More than just the meal
Yes, the competition over chili gets heated, but participants often get equally as worked up competing for the most inventive display.
Hanisch usually works with bread to create a spectacle that’s very fitting for a bakery, and he also usually snags the judges’ votes.
But last year Treasure Island captured the win, so having the casino host the event this year could mean more trouble.
“He was afraid that Treasure Island, being on their own turf, would have a real edge,” United Way of Goodhue, Wabasha and Pierce Counties marketing manager Maureen Nelson said of Hanisch.
“I know our decorators have got some ideas up their sleeves so we can get our display trophy back,” the bakery owner said.
In addition to unique decorations on the tables, the participants take creativity one step further when they decorate themselves. If past ensembles — which have included pig snouts, scrubs and “Wizard of Oz” characters — are any indication, this year’s get-ups aren’t likely to include ordinary “Kiss the Cook” aprons.
“I was just informed that I will have a costume on that will be quite interesting, to say the least,” Hanisch said, laughing.
A new locale
With interest in the cook-off steadily increasing, the United Way decided to search for a venue large enough to comfortably hold the event.
The cook-off has previously been at Mississippi National Golf Links and the National Guard Armory.
“We’ve really outgrown those places,” Nelson said.
Ryan agreed that past locations have become a little crunched, but since the casino is on the border of Welch, he’s worried some regular attendees may not be willing to make the drive.
“I just hope the same amount of people come,” he said.
Show some confidence, Ryan. The correct response would be, “With my Irish Mary chili being served, no amount of miles can keep the people away.”
If you go…
What: United Way’s 8th annual Chili Cook-Off
When: 5 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 27
Where: Treasure Island Resort & Casino Event Center
Cost: $5 for adults, free for children age 5 and younger
More info: 651-388-6309 or www.uw-gwp.org