Annual Cook-Off offers visitors variety of recipes to sample
Red, green or white? Mild, spicy or flamin’ hot? However you like your chili, you may find it — and possibly a new favorite — at the Polar Meltdown Chili Cook-Off.
The event, which challenges teams of cooks to make the tastiest pot of chili con carne, is scheduled from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Jan. 19 at the ARK Community and Sports Center in Waynesville.
“We start serving as soon as the doors open,” explained Cecilia Murray, executive director of the Waynesville-St. Robert Chamber of Commerce, which is holding the event for the 12th consecutive year.
The annual cook-off is open to teams of up to six participants and individual entries, which consist of a cook and up to two assistants.
Murray said the types of chili available have varied greatly over the years.
“We’ve had a range of entries, from white chili to chicken chili to Hawaiian,” she said. “We’ve had some entries that were very hot and some that were sweet.”
Admission to the event is $5 per person at the door.
“The basic format is the same,” Murray said. “For $5, (visitors) can come in and get samples of all the chili. They can also vote with their dollars to determine who receives the People’s Choice Award. Visitors can put money in the jars of their favorite team.”
Teams are also judged on their presentation and their booth, which typically follows a theme. Many teams opt to dress in costumes, and some even perform short skits for the judges and the audience.
“People in the audience get to watch (the skits), as well. Some of them get to be very elaborate,” Murray said.
All teams have to abide by rules set down by the chamber and the Pulaski County Health Department, which inspects each booth during the competition. Teams also have to prepare their recipes on site.
The newest aspect to this year’s competition is its location. For the first time, the cook-off is being held at the ARK, which Murray said will give it more seating and better visibility.
“It’s pretty comparable as far as size,” Murray said. However, “(The ARK) can seat more than the previous location, and it also gives us the opportunity to be right off (Interstate 44). Hopefully, we can pull some traffic off of the highway.”
Live music will be performed throughout the event by Tony Ray, who has played at several previous events.
For more information, visit the chamber’s Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/WaynesvilleStRobertChamber.