Spice of Life: Fletcher hosts its annual chili cookoff

Warming up to a chili event in Fletcher.

Warming up to a chili event in Fletcher.

Chili, like barbecue, is a dish proudly reinterpreted all over the country, in many regional and culinary lexicons. Aside from the classic Southwestern chili featuring beans and meat and varying degrees of heat, there’s Cincinnati-style chili (no beans, with an infusion of cinnamon); the nothing-but-meat-and-onions iterations of chili that are found in deep-country pockets around the U.S., and used mostly as a condiment; trendy “white” chili that uses chicken, Monterey jack cheese, and Northern beans; chili verde with tomatillos; and countless vegetarian/vegan recipes that fulfill the full hot-pepper spectrum.

On Saturday, January 28, Fletcher Parks and Recreation holds its 16th annual benefit chili cook-off, with 20 chefs signed up to compete. Individuals and businesses enter separately, and the five awards offered are: Best Overall Chili (Business or Individual), Best Business Chili, Best Individual Chili, People’s Choice, and Best Table Décor.

Judges are guided by a set of five criteria: color, consistency, aroma, taste, and after-taste. But Nicole Sweat, Recreation Program Supervisor with Fletcher Parks and Rec, notes that since this is not a nationally sanctioned chili event, strict guidelines about ingredients and temperature don’t hamper the fun.

“I think our [relative] lack of rules is what makes our event so great,” she says. “You get a way bigger variety of chili types.”

 11am-2pm at Veritas Christian Academy (17 Cane Creek Road, Fletcher). 828-687-0751. Donations accepted. www.fletcherparks.org.

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