Chili lovers, rejoice. The North Bryan Chamber of Commerce’s sixth annual Chili Cook-off is from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at the Senior Center in Pembroke, where more than a dozen chili cooks are expected to compete for cash prizes.
But the real winners will be those who come for the food and fun.
“It’s a $5 all-you-can-eat chili extravaganza,” said Carol Duggar of the NBCC. “Toppings, drinks and dessert are included. (It’s a) fabulous February Saturday meal deal.”
There’s a reason for the seasoning, and the timing. With everything from seafood festivals to pumpkin patches to Christmas parades dotting the Bryan County calendar in fall and winter, the goal was to cook up a fun way to bring people together before spring has sprung.
Thus, the cook-off was born six years ago.
“The cook-off is sponsored by the North Bryan Chamber of Commerce as a community building event,” Duggar said. “Since October through December is so busy with events, it was felt that February would be a good time of year to fill in the gap before spring events start.”
Individuals, organizations and businesses compete, and eight new contestants will vie for prizes this year with a number of returning chefs back for more.
There’s still time for aspiring chili creators to sign up and try their luck, according to the NBCC’s Sharroll Fanslau.
“Each entrant names their chili, has a table to design if they choose to decorate with a theme, and provides only their chili, a ladle and crockpot,” Fanslau said. “We have guest judges from out of the area who judge based on a random draw of numbers given to each entrant and unknown to them.”
And though cooks are aiming to win, it’s still all about having a good time. There’s a Mexican fiesta atmosphere complete with music.
Last year, Pembroke Mayor Mary Warnell attended wearing a sombrero.
“This Chili Cook-off’s party atmosphere takes the edge off the seriousness of competition,” Duggar said. “Our distinguished panel of judges will be in a separate area and will make their decisions for first-, second- and third-place winners based on criteria including taste, appearance, aroma and aftertaste. “
There’s also a people’s choice award, which is exactly what the name implies. Those who eat at the cook-off can vote for their favorite chili. Duggar said the award is highly coveted by competitors.
Because the event is held inside the Senior Center, “there’s no outside cooking and no coats needed to stay warm,” Duggar said. “Heat is generated with the many chili recipes, along with the Mexican fiesta-style theme and music.”
Entry into the competition is free. Call 912-653-2219 for more information.