Chili cook-off judges ready for Sept. 28


On Saturday, Sept. 28, 2019, 24 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 13th Annual Simon Kenton Chili Cook off Festival. The festival committee enlists the aid of “foodies” and professional chefs to determine who takes home the prize monies.

The judges are Chef Yesho Chetty, owner of Fusion 40.83 restaurant; Tia Leopard, co-owner of Mumford’s Deli; Amber Fraley Weaver, manager of Wing Bar; Rick Stevens, retired Certified Master Chef; Nick Selvaggio, Common Pleas Court Judge/General Division and Brett Gilbert, Common Pleas Court/Domestic Relations, Juvenile, Probate Division.

Chef Chetty, owner of Fusion 40.83, is returning for the eighth year as a judge. He is a seasoned veteran of the chili cook-off panel of judges having served since 2012. In addition to his restaurant, he has created recipes for restaurants in Springfield and Urbana, served as head chef of a four star resort in Fiji and prepared food for President Bill Clinton. He enjoys the chili festival and looks forward to tasting the different chili entries presented.

Tia Leopard, co-owner of Mumford’s deli, 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. She is returning for her fourth year as judge and is ready for the challenge!

Amber Fraley Weaver, manager of the Wing Bar restaurant, is also returning for the fourth year as a judge. Amber has been involved in the food industry since high school. She worked alongside her parents who owned the former Vintage Roadside Cafe in Urbana. When offered the opportunity to open the Wing Bar, she could not resist!

Chef Rick Stevens has served as chef for presidents Jimmy Carter, George H.W. Bush, and Bill Clinton. Born and raised in San Francisco, Chef Rick has owned four restaurants and taught cooking classes for years. Although retired as a chef, he is employed with SVG Motors in Urbana. He was a judge in the early days of the cook-off and is delighted to return.

Nick Selvaggio and Brett Gilbert are “foodies” who are returning as judges for the second year. With experience under their belt, they are ready to judge chili!

“Judging is not easy” said Linda Monroe, committee member. “It is not just a matter of tasting, but, rather a process of scoring the chili based on the five criteria of taste, bite, consistency, aroma and color. Points are scored in each category and the chili earning the highest number of points is the winner. I think it is important for people to realize the judging is a complicated process that can take several hours depending upon the number of entries.”

In addition to the chili judges, judges for the Best Salsa Contest have been confirmed. They are: Chris Dickey, Dawn Eaton Vermillion and Jim Baker. Winner of the best salsa will take home $100.

To encourage a fun atmosphere, contestants are asked to decorate their booth with a theme representing the name of their team. This has resulted in awesome, creative and zany decorations in the past. For their efforts, the winner receives a trophy and $100 cash prize. The judges are Sara Kerns, Julie Fannin and Sarah Thornton.

The audience can participate in judging their favorite chili by purchasing beads and dropping them in the container at the booth that created their favorite chili. The “Peoples Choice Chili” winner earns a trophy and bragging rights!

In addition to the contests, the festival includes a corn hole tournament, dunk tank, live entertainment featuring the LA Band, and lots of great food insuring a day of fun for the entire family!

By Sandy Gonzalez

Information from event organizers.

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