by Scott Gold
Attention all chili chefs: If you've ever wanted to put your bowl of red up against the big boys, now's your chance. "Chili in the Channel," a chili cook-off and fundraiser headed up by ReNEW Charter Schools that will include amateurs as well as professional cooks, is still looking for teams to compete in the culinary challenge on Saturday, February 8th.
Categories for the event will include "people's choice, best vegetarian, best meat, most creative, and most 'NOLA-esque.'" Already, a number of teams from prominent restaurants have signed on to participate and hopefully win the "Golden Chili Pot," including Charcoal's, The Rum House, Booty's Street Food and more.
"It's chili with a purpose," said Liza Sherman, the ReNEW board development chair. "ReNEW operates three schools in the Irish Channel, and we’re interested in increasing our ties in the neighborhood and getting more community members involved with the schools. We thought this would be a good way to engage them, either as tasters or competitors at a big chili cook-off. All of our events go to underwrite summer college trips for about 500 of our students, many of whom will be first generation college students. We take them to five different cities throughout the country to visit universities."
An interesting facet of the event is that, aside from soaked beans, all prep and cooking must take place on site during the day of the event, which should prove an interesting challenge for those hoping to win over the chili judges. Ingredients, however, are fair game.
"We figured chili was a warm winter food, and there are so many variations you can do with it," said Sherman. "It’s a hot hearty meal to share with your neighbors, and usually easy to whip together. You can go traditional, get really avant guard, go vegetarian — there are so many different takes on it. I’m personally making a vegetarian chili, but I’m really looking forward to seeing how off the beaten path people get with the ingredients. It should be really interesting. And hopefully tasty, too!"
The event - presented by Gulf Coast Bank - will also feature music, as well as beer from NOLA Brewing Co., which will be selling its blonde and brown ales.
Applications and details for aspiring chili teams can be found on ReNEW's website, and carry a final deadline of January 24th. Chili in the Channel will take place at the ReNEW Cultural Arts Academy Play Yard (on Laurel St. between 8th and 9th Streets) on Saturday, February 8th, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Those not competing can attend the event for $5, and each chili will be available for $1 per 2-ounce serving.