Annual chili cook-off brings the spice while helping Farmington community

By: Sherri Kolade | Farmington Press | Published March 6, 2018

 Miss Farmington 2017 Summer Badrak, 16, scoops up some chili during the March 4 Chili Cook-Off at John Cowley & Sons.

Miss Farmington 2017 Summer Badrak, 16, scoops up some chili during the March 4 Chili Cook-Off at John Cowley & Sons.

Photo by Donna Agusti

 People’s Choice Award winner Mike LaFever serves his Chestnut Chili with a Twist. LaFever, who lives in Fenton, is a barber at Korner Barbers in Farmington.

People’s Choice Award winner Mike LaFever serves his Chestnut Chili with a Twist. LaFever, who lives in Fenton, is a barber at Korner Barbers in Farmington.

Photo by Donna Agusti

FARMINGTON — Chris Barr had a big bottle of Tums on hand March 4 in preparation for judging the annual chili cook-off at John Cowley & Sons.

Contestants brought the heat during the 23rd annual cook-off, which drew a large crowd to sample chilis with names like Merica, Chestnut Chili with a Twist, Yum Yum Give Me Some, M.F.C., Chili Today and Hot Tamale. 

Five judges judged the chilis.

Barr has been a judge for the cook-off for the past several years and said that he liked the M.F.C. chili the best; it was named the Judges Choice winner later that day.

“It tasted like chili. It was spicy, it was meaty, it had vegetables, it was all good,” he said, adding that he does not prefer chilis that are “too sweet,” and there were quite a few sweet chilis entered this year. 

“Some of them you don’t even notice, but some of them you will pick up on certain hints, like cinnamon, especially.”

Event founder Ginny Morris, who organizes Miss Farmington Pageant community events, said that it was a great turnout, with over 100 attendees. She co-hosted the event with Miss Farmington 2017 Summer Badrak. 

Morris said she started the event when she was with the Miss America program and her contestants wanted to do something for the city.

“I said, ‘Let’s do a chili cook-off,’” she said. “So it’s always been the first Sunday in March after the football games are over and everything, and people come and eat chili, drink and have a good old time.”

When asked how the event has changed in 23 years, she said with a laugh that there are more drinkers. 

With a glass nearby, Farmington resident Bert David, the Judges Choice Award winner — said the name of his chili, M.F.C., stands for Mother’s (expletive) Chili.

“I like things that are hot, so I don’t really care about adding barbecue sauce or ketchup,” he said.

His dish — which he has entered in the cook-off for the the past four years — consists of hamburger, ground onions, a can of diced tomatoes, two cans of hot beans and four Hungarian hot peppers. “Joe’s Produce (and Gourmet Market in Livonia) is the only place that sells them,” he said.

David said that when you eat his chili, the heat doesn’t hit you immediately.

“Then, all of a sudden, wham — and that is the way it is supposed to be,” he said.

Morris said in a follow-up interview that David’s chili was a little hot, but it “was really good.”

Judge Sean O’Reilly doesn’t mind the heat. The fourth-year judge said that he likes spice and some other things too.

“You need to have a good consistency, and I like it meaty and chunky — it’s more the chunky meat in there instead of all ground up, and whole beans in there.”

He added that while everybody’s tastes are different, he too dislikes sweet chili, preferring a more Texas-style chili.

Farmington Hills Mayor Ken Massey, who holds a couple of wins in Texas chili competitions, knows about Texas-style chili.

That’s is how he modeled his own chili, Educational Pageant Inspired Creation, or E.P.I.C.

“I’ve started with this recipe in graduate school when I was in Texas, and I had two trophies,” he said, adding that the recent event was to raise money for Farmington Suicide Awareness for Everyone and the Riley Education Foundation. 

Badrak picked Farmington SAFE as her charity.

“Mental health is huge in our community. It’s a challenge everywhere, so I think she’s chosen a good (charity),” Massey said of Badrak.

Wearing a sparkling tiara and a sash, Badrak, a Farmington High School junior, said that she wanted to pick a charity to which she felt she could relate.

“That I was passionate about,” she said, adding that her platform is getting the youth in the community more involved with volunteerism.

Badrak, who liked a white chicken chili at the competition, said the cook-off was a great community event with “great food and good people.”

Proceeds this year will go to Farmington Suicide Awareness for Everyone and the Miss Farmington Deloris Riley Educational Scholarship.