Chili cook off provides a spicy good time

By Joel Charron

Jeff Pillon started cooking shortly after an accident landed him in a wheelchair, 15 years later his hobby has gained him one of Amherstburg’s most prized titles.

On behalf of the Amherstburg Miracle League, Pillon was chosen as Amherstburg’s top chili in the Knights of Columbus’ annual Chili Cook-Off.

Chili lovers flock to the center table to grab a sample of the eight different chili's avaliable.

“I feel fantastic,” said Pillon, shortly after being handed the title.

Pillon said he has had plenty of time over the past 15 years to perfect his chili recipe.

“I always have a Super Bowl party and an open house on Boxing Day,” said Pillon. “Chili is always on the menu.”

This past Saturday, eight teams converged at the Knights of Columbus Hall to battle for the right to be named Amherstburg’s best chili. The eight teams who were competing were:  Knights of Columbus Ladies Auxiliary, Amherstburg Police/Amherstburg Heroes, House of Shalom, AMA Sportsmen’s Club, Food and Fellowship Mission, Michelle Gyori, The Royal Canadian Legion and the Amherstburg Miracle League.

The eight teams were judged by five judges: Councilor Bart DiPasquale, Fire Chief Randy Sinasac, Councilor John Sutton and his wife Giselle Sutton and Columbian Ladies president Barb Deneau.

Each team had a station set up in the middle of the hall as chili goers grabbed a small bowl of team chili, while the judges were stationed in front of the battlefield, they tasted each chili masterpiece one by one.

“Every chili has its own unique taste,” said DiPasquale. “You have to really clean your pallet before you try each one to distinguish the different types of spices and seasonings.”

While DiPasquale took his role as chili judge quite serious, others like Sinasac were happy to be part of such a fun community event.

“By looking at my body, you can tell I’m a big chili fan,” joked Sinasac. “This is a good time to get together with the rest of the community, especially for the service clubs. I love coming out for it.”

While some entries have been entering the cook-off for years, for others it was their first time entering and even making chili.

“I’ve never made chili before,” said House of Shalom activities director Holly Kirk-Mclean. “We had one of our member’s mom help me and two of the leaders came and helped as well. A few of the members were more than happy to taste test. It was a complete House effort.”

The winner of the cook-off is awarded 50 per cent of the ticket sales while second place picks up 30 per cent and third place grabs 20 per cent of all ticket sales.

2011 Knights of Columbus Chili Cook Off winners: First Place: Amherstburg Miracle League (front) Second Place: Columbian Women (Left) Third Place: Food and Fellowship Mission (Middle) People's Choice: Royal Canadian Legion (Right)

Second place went to the Colombian Ladies and third place was given to the Food and Fellowship Mission.

Organizer, Mike Specht said the Knights of Columbus brought back the “People Choice Award” because there were many people asking for its reinstatement.

“The people asked for it and we want to give the people what they want,” said Specht.

The People’s Choice Award was given to The Royal Canadian Legion.

The Chili Cook-Off was started 17 years ago by Harold Bernachi as a way to involve the community and help the local charities. . The Chili Cook-off has gained such prestige that there is a waiting list to enter.

“It’s the people in the community that are cooking the chili and presenting it, that’s what makes this event so popular.”

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