On Saturday, Sept. 26, 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 9th 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; Keith Wicker, chef at Forage Restaurant; Eileen Grogan, general manager at Coppertop Restaurant; and Chuck Jones, retired owner of Catfish Jones Restaurant.
Smith graduated from the Hocking College Culinary School and worked in the Urbana area at Catfish Jones Restaurant and the Urbana Country Club prior to moving to Paradiso. He is a hometown boy and has always enjoyed cooking and loves creating dishes using fresh ingredients sourced locally. With 10 years experience in the cooking arena, he is looking forward to the challenge of selecting the top chili.
Chetty graduated from the Culinary School of Cincinnati State and began a career that took him from the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base Officers Club to Arkansas where he met and cooked for President Bill Clinton and on to the Turtle Island Resort in the Fiji Islands where he served as the head chef. Upon his return to the Midwest, he worked in Columbus and Springfield restaurants and, in May 2011, he participated in the opening of the Fusion 40.83 Restaurant in Urbana, later becoming the sole owner. He offers seasonal dishes in addition to the regular menu, sourcing local foods as much as possible. He donates regularly to local events and would like to partner with Urbana High School in establishing a culinary arts program. His pursuit to become a chef did not begin until his junior year at Wright State. He was studying to be a chemist, when he decided to pursue his dream of becoming a culinary master. “Only in America, can you have a second chance to apply yourself, work hard and succeed,” said Chef Chetty.
Wicker has always had a passion for cooking. While studying art history at Denison University, he decided to pursue his dream of becoming a chef and left for France where he trained at Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts. Upon his return to the states, he catered events on Embassy Row in Washington, D.C. and served as grand chef for former Ohio governors John Gilligan and James Rhodes. He opened Cafe Monet, the first restaurant to be inside the Dayton Art Institute, owned a restaurant in Yellow Springs, was head chef at the Women’s Town Club of Springfield and owed Edgwick Catering in Springfield for 15 years. Although he is retired, he joined the team at Forage to present fresh, locally-sourced and chemically-free foods in a wonderful array of dishes. Although he will “retire” again in December, he will continue to supply baked goods to Forage and continue as a consultant. He is training a new chef and is confident that the quality and variety of food offered will continue to be the best possible. “I am honored to be asked to judge the chili,” Wicker said.
Grogan is looking forward to participating as a chili judge. She has always worked in the food industry – her first job being at the Plain and Fancy Donut shop in Maryland while attending high school. Upon her return to Urbana, she worked at the Urbana Country Club, Catfish Jones, and Paradiso Restaurant. She has enjoyed the challenge of opening a new restaurant and working with the chefs on new recipes and menu selections. As she admits, she has been in the Urbana restaurant business so long she knows her customers and their drink and food choices.
Chuck Jones is no stranger to the restaurant business. He is a self-taught chef, having entered the restaurant business while living in Texas. Beginning at ground level, he worked his way up to the position of chef, gaining invaluable experience for his future career as restaurant owner. He returned to Urbana and opened Catdaddy’s Restaurant in Springfield and later Catfish Jones Restaurant in Urbana. He has participated as a judge in four previous Simon Kenton Chili cook-off events and has always enjoyed the experience.
Information submitted by event organizers.