The 25th annual Louisiana State Championship Chili Cook-Off raised roughly $7,500 for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital Saturday.
Along with sponsorships and entry fees from about 80 entrants, for $5, the public could purchase a tasting cup, a spoon and a ballot for people’s choice, with all proceeds going to St. Jude. Hosted by the Minden St. Jude Auction and organized and sponsored by Minden Medical Center, the Chili Appreciation Society International, or CASI, champion chili cooks from all over the country converged on the Minden Civic Center to compete and raise money for a good cause.
Gary Brignon, of Ennis, Texas, says he participates in two to three chili cook-offs a month, and the St. Jude cook-off is a great one.
“I’ve been coming to this cook-off for about eight years now, and it’s great,” he said. “The public comes out; it’s for a good cause. And if you can come down here and place against these (champion) cooks, you know you’ve done something.”
Jason Veitch, of Anti-Pest and Veitch, says this is the second year his company has participated in the cook-off, and even though they did not place last year, it is for a good cause.
“Last year was our first year to do it, and we had so much fun, we decided to do it again,” Veitch said. “As a company, we do many different things to support St. Jude, and this is a way for us to support St. Jude and come together as a company outside of work. It’s for a good cause.”
Veitch and Jason Millsap brought home first place in the local division.
Mike Elshout, and his dad, Mike, entered the competition this year as 2 Mike’s Chili, taking a break from their Sasquatch brand. Elshout says they created an all-new recipe this year.
“It’s for St. Jude; it’s for the kids,” he said. “We don’t care how we do. We’re here for the kids, to have a good time, for the atmosphere and hopefully make some good chili. They all love it so far.”
Josh and Scott Spillers, as Team Wookie, doled out chili with a flare – coming as Luke Skywalker and Chewbacca, more affectionately known as “Chewy.” They say they came as their favorite characters, and since the new movie came out, it rekindled their love for the movie franchise.
“We combined the two things we love – St. Jude and Star Wars – and we’re having fun,” Josh Spillers said. “This is our second year (competing), but we’ve been coming to St. Jude for years.”
They say one of their classmates, and a classmate and best friend of their sister’s, were both patients of St. Jude, and it motivated them more to raise money for treatment and research, Josh Spillers said.
“It kind of hit home,” he said. “Two folks close to us within a short period of time, and we went up there and visited with them. My sister was a Louisi-Anne, and the girl that went to St. Jude was a Louisi-Anne, and they went up there and performed for her while she was in treatment.”
Last year’s winner, Allison Williams from Corsicana, Texas, says the slogan for CASI is “Chili, Charity and Fun.”
“We cook for all the charities,” she said. “It’s all about the kids, and we donate every year.”
Local winners were: Hugh Wood people’s choice, first place Jason Millsap and Jason Veitch of Anti-Pest and Veitch Red Hot Chili Preppers, second place Mike Elshout and his father, Mike Elshout of 2 Mike’s Chili, and Clyde Frizzelle of Cherokee Firewater coming in third place.
Best of show went to the Dream Team (Haley Knotts and Courtney Woodard), Super Chili Man (Jason Gates) and Bam Bam Chili (Eric Walker and Russell Godwin).
There were three Louisiana cooks that made the top 10 this year: Cherry Baker and Jerry Hunt, both of Shreveport, and Janelle Poole of Lafayette.
“The first three from Louisiana automatically qualify for the world championship in Terlingua, Texas, that we hold the first weekend of every November,” George E. French III, cook-off chairman, said. “We cook throughout the year, and we cook for points to do that.”
The top 10 CASI winners were tenth place Hunt, ninth place David Manske, eighth place Baker, seventh place Mack Walker, sixth place Kate Cavender, fifth place Poole, fourth place Renee Moore, third place Frances Manske, second place Sherry Burns and first place James Burns. James Burns is also the 2015 reigning world champion.
Former world champs who participated included Hunt, Roger Foltz, Randy Moore, Carol West and James Burns.