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5 Questions: Enola man wins spot at world championship chili cookoff

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Randy Allen of Enola earned a spot at next year’s International Chili Society’s World Championship Chili Cookoff in Des Moines, Iowa, thanks to a first place finish at the recent Hanover Chili Cook Off.

According to the Hanover Chili Cook Off’s website, the annual event has raised more than $500,000 for charity over the past 24 years.

Q. How did you get started with participating in chili cook-offs?

A. Many years ago, I attended a Chili Cook Off at the Kipona Festival in Harrisburg, Pa. It was located on City Island itself. I found it very fascinating and it appeared the cooks, as well as the tasters, were all having a hoot. Being the competitive type, next year a friend and I created a stand known as ‘Willie’s Old-Fashioned Hillbilly Chili’ and concocted some version of what should have never been called chili, and we had a blast. Twenty years later I’m still cooking but our team name is now Dire Wolf Chili.

Q. What can you tell us about your winning recipe at Hanover?

A. The category we won this year is known as Homestyle Chili. Homestyle is a type of chili, I would say, may resemble what most people think of as chili. Our version mimics our Red Chili version, but it must contain beans. Most often, we use more fresh peppers, onions and garlic than our Red counterpart. And supplementing our cubed tri-tip base meat, we add ground beef and ground pork.

Q. How do the world championships work?

A. The Hanover Chili Cook Off was the International Chili Society’s Pennsylvania State Championship event. And let me say this, it was and always is an awesome event, well run, benefits great causes and is massive fun. Everyone should attend the Hanover Chili Cook Off when it rolls around again. Should you win in a chili category at this event, you are automatically qualified to cook and represent Pennsylvania at the ICS World Championship Chili Cook Off being held in Des Moines, Iowa, in 2020. There are other ICS events that take place across the country throughout the year, that allow qualification into the World Championship as-well.

Q. Since next year will mark your return to the world championships, what lessons did you learn the last time that will help you this time?

A. I’ve made a commitment to compete at the 2020 World Championship Chili Cook Off. This is actually the third time we have qualified for the WCCO. Last year was for Chili Verde, however, I was unable to attend because of other commitments. Lessons learned would be to pack the minimum amount of supplies you need to set up a kitchen. Two suitcases at 49.99 lbs. each barely enables you the minimum supplies needed. ICS cook offs require you to prepare your food and cook your chili on site. Usually each category is timed at 3 hours, start to finish. If you enter three categories, that’s a lot of prepping. Have your local meat and vegetable supplier picked out ahead of time. And don’t worry about things you can’t control. Enjoy your friends and make having fun the highest priority.

Q. For us noncompetitive people who love good chili, what is one secret to good chili or one thing you can recommend to make our chili better?

A. Good ingredients make for good results. Don’t be afraid of spices. Garlic powder, onion powder, cumin and salt are your friends. Use the good quality tomato sauce and chicken/beef broths, not the reduced down versions. Start with three tablespoons of chili powder per pound of meat and go from there. Get online and buy some good chili mixes/powders from some of the reputable spice companies out there. Add your powders (dumps) at different intervals through the cooking process. Add cumin near the end of the cook so it doesn’t get bitter. Let the chili simmer for a while before tasting. Have a beer and enjoy the ride.

Email Tammie at tgitt@cumberlink.com. Follow her on Twitter @TammieGitt.

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