Chili cook-off promises bigger, better football fun

By: Tiffany Esshaki | Birmingham - Bloomfield Eagle | Published January 18, 2012

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BEVERLY HILLS — Dust off that bottle of Tums, because the 4th and a Half Annual Chili Cook-Off will heat up Sunday, Jan. 22 at Our Lady Queen of Martyrs School. This year, according to event co-creator Jim Salter, will dish out more chili, more TVs and more fun.

“Last year we had 350 people, and it’s grown in popularity. What guys in the parish aren’t going to like chili, football and beer?”

The event started years ago, when two Our Lady Queen of Martyrs parishioners, Salter and B.J. Damman, had a disagreement — they couldn’t decide whose chili was better. So they went head to head, cooked up their best batch of chili and let the rest of the congregation decide. That was the “half” in the fourth and a half annual event, and the two still argue about who was the rightful winner that fateful day.

Since then, the chili cook-off has grown into an all-out culinary event, with more than 20 amateur chefs and even a few professionals competing for first-, second- and third-place titles, and cash prizes. Participants can sample the competitors’ creations and wash them back with a beer or a hot dog. Professional judges will decide the winners based on categories including flavor and aroma.

Like any proper Sunday, there will be plenty of football to watch, with eight big-screen TVs donated by Hawthorne Appliances showing games from both the AFC and the NFC. Guests will even get the chance to take a TV home with them in a raffle.

While the cook-off seems like a bona-fide holiday for any guy, the event is popular with all of OLQM’s families, and acts as a major fundraising event for the church and school. Salter said that in the past, the cook-off has brought in thousands of dollars.

“We charge what we think is a pretty nominal price for an all-day, all-you-can-eat event. And it goes straight to the bottom line, since we’re not paying for the chili. Each contestant brings two gallons of chili, and we ask that the restaurants bring five gallons.”

According to Damman, there are 24 amateur competitors. Six local restaurants will compete in the professional category: Brady’s, Café Via, Rusty Bucket, Mt. Chalet, Townhouse Bistro and Hotz Catering. With that many cooks in the kitchen, there should be plenty of chili to go around for what Damman said will be between 600 and 800 expected attendees.

He added that the delicious fun isn’t just for church-goers. Anyone is welcome. In fact, he said that in the past, the festivities have gained a lot of support from the community at large.

“It’s a very cool, and if I can say so, unusual party. It’s not your normal football party,” he said.

The Our Lady Queen of Martyrs’ 4th and a Half Annual Chili Cook-Off will be held from 1-8 p.m. in the school’s gym, 32460 Pierce Road. Admission is $10 for adults, and $5 for kids 12 and younger.

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