This Saturday, 30 contestants will be firing up their kettles and creating their best chili in hopes of taking home the top prize of $1,000 during the 10th Annual Simon Kenton Chili Cook-off Festival. The festival committee has decided to let the “pros” be the judge and have a team of professional cooks/chefs doing the honors.
The judges are Matt Smith, chef at Cafe Paradiso; Chef Yesho Chetty, owner of Fusion 40.83 Restaurant; Tia Leopard, co-owner of Mumford’s Deli; Eileen Grogan, general manager at Coppertop Restaurant; and Amber Fraley Weaver, manager of Wing Bar.
Matt Smith graduated from the Hocking College Culinary School and loves creating dishes using fresh ingredients sourced locally. He had a lot of fun judging chili entries in 2015 and looks forward to the challenge again this year.
Chef Chetty was working on a degree in chemistry at Wright State when he decided to switch careers and pursue his dream of becoming a culinary master. His love of cooking was enhanced during his job tenure at Wright Patterson Air Force Base under William C. Franklin, a Certified Master Chef. Chef Franklin taught him the chemistry between foods and the action/reactions taking place when ingredients are combined. Chef Chetty considers Chef Franklin his mentor and the inspiration behind his career switch. During his career his has cooked for President Bill Clinton, served as head chef at a four-star resort, formulated recipes for restaurants in Springfield and Urbana and participated in the opening of the Fusion 40.83 Restaurant, later becoming the sole owner. He offers seasonal dishes in addition to the regular menu, sourcing local foods as much as possible. He works with the YMCA and offers a summer program to introduce children to the kitchen and cooking. He is an animal lover, having raised chickens cows, and works to raise money for PAWS. He enjoys the chili festival and looks forward to tasting the different chili entries presented.
Tia Leopard has been involved with the deli since 1979. She is a “hands on” cook who not only manages the kitchen, but, also, works to create new dishes for the menu. Offering fresh ingredients sourced locally allows her to offer seasonal dishes. Supporting local businesses is very important and not only are the products used in the menu, but are also offered for sale in the shop. Items such as Woeber’s mustards, Dill’s maple syrup and local artists’ creations are always available for purchase. Tia is ready for the challenge of judging the chili entries and was pleased to be asked.
Eileen Grogan has always worked in the food industry and has worked at the Urbana Country Club, Catfish Jones, and Paradiso Restaurant. She enjoys the challenge of working with the chefs on new recipes and menu selections and is excited about the new menu item, catfish. Eileen knows her customers and their drink and food preferences and that is a comforting feeling when dining out! She is looking forward to returning as a chili judge and feels the event is a great one for Urbana.
Amber Fraley Weaver is manager of the new restaurant, Wing Bar, located on South U.S. Route 68. As her parents were long time owners of drive-through businesses and owners of the former Vintage Roadside Cafe, Amber has been involved in the food industry since high school.
In addition, she worked at Applebee’s restaurant, giving her a different perspective on a large corporate chain operation. This is her first year as a judge and she was excited to be invited to participate. “I like chili and it will have to be a really good chili for me to be impressed – it has to be a ‘wow’ chili,” said Amber. She extends best wishes to all participants.