Area chefs compete in annual Chestnut Hill Rotary chili cook-off

Chefs from all over the Greater Philadelphia area vied for the top prize on Sunday afternoon at the 2013 Chestnut Hill Rotary Chili Cook-off. Inside the Lutheran Theological Seminary’s Brossman Center in Mt. Airy, the competition carried more sizzle than simmer. 

Two-time defending chili champion, Peter Kaiser of Mt. Airy’s McMenamin’s Tavern, was confident if not convincing, in his quest for a three-peat.

“Everybody’s different in how they make it, but I don’t really get why people serve their chili with cheese and sour cream,” Kaiser said, with a nod down the line to competitors. “I think it takes away from the flavor of the meat.”

This year, Kaiser showed up with a unique chili blend that is currently in McMenamin’s rotation: shredded goat meat topped with jalapenos and beans resting comfortably amongst pork belly flavoring. It had all the makings of an ideal mix between barbecue smoky and downright spicy.

Attendees could enjoy their chili from circular tables dotted around the competitor’s table in the middle of the room. Most chili tasting, though, was done immediately and while standing right after it was handed out of the pot and into a mini-styrofoam cup.

Upon admission, guests were handed a golden coin replica to award to the chili they found most deserving. Each chili station, featuring chefs from neighboring McMenamin’s and as far away as Javelin Caterers in Pottstown, had a ballot box hungry for coins.

The Rotary provided soda and Yards Brewery was also on hand to dole out beer for those who chose to indulge. Either way, a beverage seemed like a necessary temporary taste bud reprieve from the hot and spicy. Ice cream, provided by Hungry Bear Café, was also an option.

While snagging the top prize was a priority, the publicity factor was also high on the competitor’s minds. Business cards, banners and menus were in abundance.

Jimmie Reed, of Little Jimmie’s Bakery Café, sold sweets from his establishment at the cook-off.

He said, with a smile: “It’s a great method of marketing, branding, and getting your name out there and into the community.”

The group plans to allocate the proceeds of the event to help children in developing countries, according to Christian Mongrain, a Rotary member and master of ceremonies at Sunday’s event. 

“We’ll use what we made today to help kids from third world countries to get surgery that will fix their cleft pallet. It’s one thousand dollars for one surgery and we hope to help kids get the surgery from today,” said Mongrain.

In the end, there was no three-peat for Kaiser and McMenamin’s. They placed second overall and first place for Best Exotic Chili. 

The 2013 Chili Cook-off Best Overall Chili prize went to Javelin Caterers. They also won first place in the Best Meat Chili category.

Good Phellas food truck, run by chef Jonathan Weigand, came in on top for the People’s Choice award. NW Philly’s Weavers Way won top spot for Best Vegetarian Chili. 

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