Chili aficionados at Brewers Beach thumbed their noses at Tropical Storm Irene on Sunday, as the 27th annual Chili Cook-off of the Texas Society of the Virgin Islands drew the most contestants ever despite wind and rain.
The weather added extra excitement to the day which ended a little prematurely as patrons ran to their cars for cover. Nonetheless, nearly 70 chefs began setting up their tents and kitchens at 6 a.m.
Event Coordinator Marleen Dykhuis said, “Everyone showed up. All 69 cooks were there, only two didn’t submit their chili. Unfortunately, the storm will keep people from coming out because they are scared but at least the money raised will go to the community.”
All chilis must be prepared on the beach. The double-blind judging is done under the strict rules of the Chili Appreciation Society International. The chili must meet five criteria: aroma, color (the redder, the more desirable), consistency, taste, and aftertaste.
Despite the rain, there were cooks yelling out for people to come try their chili, dancing on the beach, drinking and socializing with friends. This year added a new level of “people’s choice” as tasters had the option to text in their vote for their favorite chili. The winning cooks receive a year’s service and a phone from Choice Communications.
Matt Denton, a first-time contestant adorned in neon yellow and a classic chili pepper chef’s hat, said, “I had so much fun! I was screaming my head off, ‘Come and get it.’ We’ve been having a blast.”
The grand prize winner gets an all-expense-paid trip to the Chili Appreciation Society International contest in Terlingua, Texas, in November. “It’s a big deal. This year there are fifteen cooks from Texas competing. Not to mention, the winner gets big bragging rights,” Dykhuis said while handing cups of chili to the tasters seated at four individual tables, waiting to judge the hot meaty goodness.
Unfortunately, by 3 p.m., the weather turned ugly and the chili fans fled.
Proceeds from this year’s cook-off will go toward Queen Louise Home for the Aged, V.I. Institute of Performing Arts, St. Thomas Search and Rescue, Dial-A-Ride and the Family Resource Center.
This year’s major sponsor was Coors Light, distributed by Bellows International; Merchant’s Market, which donates ground beef to each cook; Island Beachcomber, Tickles Dockside Pub, Evian Water; Fortress Storage; First Bank; Choice; American Airlines and Lew Henley.