CORNWALL, Ontario – Lola’s Pub and Grub was awash in a sea of slow cookers this Sat. Feb. 11. Entering its third year, the Beyond 21 Chili Cookoff had a healthy turnout despite the blizzardly weather, with eleven cooks facing off in the ultimate chili taste-test.
Jane McLaren, who is the Executive Director at Beyond 21, says that unlike previous years, this year, the organization’s participants entered a chili in the competition – and won.
“When I saw that we won, I thought that the group might accuse us of cheating,” laughed McLaren. “They had tomatoes from the garden, peppers from the garden, garlic, all the produce that was raised over the summer and frozen, and they actually won.”
Paul “Pepe” Petepiece is a volunteer with Beyond 21 and has been a participant in the event since its inception. This year Petepiece scrapped his old chili recipes and created what he modestly describes as ‘the very best chili ever made by a human being.’ Having sold copies of the secret recipe for $20 each, Petepiece managed to raise $180 towards the cause.
With a mouth-watering assortment of flavours and styles, there was a chili for every palette at the cookoff. “You think chili’s chili?” asked McLaren. “When you walk around the tables and taste them all, you realize that there’s so many different variations – it’s amazing.”
Shannon Savard, who is a board member at Beyond 21, and one of the main organizers of the event, says that community support is a critical part of its success. “It really costs us nothing to put the event on – everything is donated,” said Savard. “Our program has grown in quality and size because of the community support.”
Lola’s Pub and Grub have offered up their space three years in a row, facilitating the event’s planning. Dynamic Closures have also been a chief sponsor from the start, with Tim Hortons, Kings and Little Ones, Bill’s Sports Bar, and Farm Boy providing door prizes.
Funds raised during the event were just shy of the organization’s $2,000 goal, but will be incredibly helpful in providing additional programing.
“The funds that you see raised today go back into the hands of the participants,” said McLaren. “One of our key focuses is to get our participants really knitted into the community. We’re hoping to leak the money back into the ground again with our home skills facilitation program.”