The competition's hot at Chili Cook-off

| 28 Sep 2011 | 02:15

    Augusta-Second only to secret apple pie recipes, secret chili recipes seemto be protected by their owners with as much care as they take to secure any family treasure. This year's ninth annual Chili Cook-off at the State Fair however, saw countless people prepared to give up their ‘secret recipe' in return for the chance to win the coveted best chili award. As always, the cook-off was open to all non professional New Jersey cooks with awards up for grabs in four different categories: chili with beans, chili without beans, vegetarian chili and seafood chili. "This year we also have an additional Public Safety category which is open to the fire and police departments and offers the only cash prize of $500," said Corinne Pierce, State Fair home economics committee member. A panel of three professional chefs do the judging based on taste, texture, appearance and presentation. "We want to see how creative the people have been. If it's a seafood chili, then we definitely want to be able to taste the seafood, and we don't want to be able to taste the spices right away. It can't be overpowering," said Tom Povinelli, an executive chef at the Loriel corporate facility. Brother and sister Tom and Jackie Makoujy had a little friendly sibling rivalry going on as they competed against each other. "Ever since my brother put sunflower seed in the meatloaf, he thinks he's the best cook, and I want to put him in his place," said Jackie, whose secret ingredient for her chili is veal kidney suet. Tom, who was last years grand champion, was confident that his ‘road kill chili' was going to be tough to beat. "My chili is not tomato based, and though I call it road kill chili it is suitable for any kind of meat," he said. "I also put three different kinds of peppers into it." While presentation is certainly important, it accounts for only five-seven percent of the overall marks. But it is obviously more meaningful to some entrants, such as Erin DeLuca of Vernon, who dedicated her army theme seafood chili to the troops in Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, where her husband is stationed. "We enter every year, and my husband is always here to help me," she said. "This year I wasn't going to do it, but my kids and friends said I should go ahead, so I decided why not?"