COLUMBIA — As the temperature plummeted, mid-Missouri residents warmed up at the Fieldhouse with bowls of chili for the third annual Chef’s Chili Challenge.
Chili connoisseurs simmered their secret recipes to impress the judges while eyeing the competition.
The Columbia Jaycees hosted the event Thursday night to benefit the Central Missouri Food Bank. Residents and restaurant employees filled 18 booths where cooks created their best pots of chili and side dishes in hopes of winning the People’s Choice Award.
Winner of five previous Columbia chili competitions, Steve Henderson, a member of the Downtown Optimist Club, continued his winning streak with his chili. For the Chef’s Chili Challenge, he added Kansas City strip and prime rib to his beef chuck and tomato mixture.
“Food has to have two things, flavor and texture,” Henderson said. “I put lots of love in it.”
Attendees sampled food from each booth and voted for their favorite.
As winner of the People’s Choice Award, Henderson will receive $500, $250 of which is earmarked for a charity of the winner’s choice, said Dawn Thurnau, coordinator of the event and a volunteer for the Jaycees. Thurneau said Henderson will donate the money to the Optimist Club. Other winners included Forge and Vine for best beef chili, Melissa MacGowan for best pork chili and Henderson for best chili side-dish.
First-time chili challenger Sara DeBold, manager of the Lee Street Deli, cooked through the previous night in preparation for the competition.
“I was a little nervous when I walked in because there were a lot of people, and they looked like they knew what they were doing,” said DeBold, 24.
DeBold called the older women in her family, asked for their chili recipes and blended them together.
“The recipe is even a secret to me,” she said.
This year, the Jaycees planned to raise more than $2,000 through donations and ticket sales. The event has previously raised about $1,500.
“Fieldhouse has truly gone above and beyond to help us make this event better than ever,” Thurnau said.
While tasting chili, attendees listened to live music by the Dustin-Crider Duo and participated in a silent auction. A George Foreman grill, a wine basket and various gift certificates were among many auctioned items.
The Columbia Jaycees is a non-profit organization made up of individuals 21 to 40 years old who volunteer and hold fundraisers throughout the year. Three years ago, the Jaycees, came up with the idea for the chili challenge.
“We thought chili was a good fit for a fundraiser for the Food Bank because it’s an inexpensive but hearty and healthy meal,” Thurnau said. “It has been so heartwarming to see the community come together to make it happen this year.”