Casi chili: Trent Atwood, Shelbyville
White chili: Donna Rude, Indianapolis
Chili verde: John Hornbeck, Fort Wayne
Beans: Natalie Atwood, Shelbyville
Showmanship: Bob Hoffman, Columbia City
Restaurant: Indiana Tech
People’s choice: Bob Hoffman, Columbia City
Red Hot, Bubbas, Gorilla, Voodoo – they may sound like the names of a rock bands, but they were actually the names of several featured soups at Saturday’s Fire in the Fort Chilifest Cookoff.
It was the seventh year for the chili festival and the second year for the Northeast Indiana Cornhole Championship. Cooks prepared their concoctions beneath canopies, which formed a square around the cornhole competition at Headwaters Park.
The weather was sunny, but cool – perfect for chilly chili tasters.
J.R. Jackson, a chef at Bubba’s Bar & Grill in Indianapolis, took the day to travel north and showcase his voodoo chili recipe. The voodoo, by the way, has nothing to do with the taste of the chili – it’s the nickname he was given when he played ice hockey.
This was the third year Jackson competed in the Fire in the Fort event. In the past, he has won awards for his salsa and red chili, he said.
In Indiana and in Illinois, he has qualified five times for the World Champion Chili Cookoff in Texas, but he’s never attended, he said.
In her fifth year competing at the event, Mary Lopez was hoping to add to her list of awards including Best Salsa, Chili Verde and White Chili.
Lopez is an executive assistant for the city of Fort Wayne and often “experiments” and tries her new recipes out on her co-workers, she said.
“I started making my chili for some large gatherings, and now I will make them for people at work,” she said.
In addition to the many individuals showcasing their culinary talents, several groups got involved, including Ivy Tech, Indiana Tech, VFW Post 857 and Purdue Alumni.
The Fort Wayne Trails booth featured a meatless chili made by Justin Gilbert of Churubusco.
Gilbert, a self-taught cook who blogs an online cookbook, said he was a little apprehensive about developing the “vegan trailblazer chili” specified by officials at Fort Wayne Trails.
“I cringed because I’m a complete meat fanatic,” Gilbert said.
He used black beans in place of meat and unsweetened chocolate to impart richness in the absence of fat from protein, he said.
To balance the bitterness of the chocolate, he used sweet corn and brown sugar.
Although the official judging had not taken place, the vegan chili was given a thumbs-up by several who sampled it.