Locals compete at 2017 Lester’s Chapel Chili Cook-Off

COLUMBIANA- Lester’s Chapel United Methodist Church on the Chelsea-Columbiana line held their annual Chili Cook-Off on Saturday, Feb. 5. Members of the community gathered to taste chili from competitors, spend time with old friends and make new ones.

“It’s an opportunity for the community to come together in fellowship. We open it up to whomever would like to bring their chili,” Rev. Melissa Patrick said.

There were nine entries in this year’s cook-off, and visitor Gwen Moore said each sample she tasted was delicious.

“I have really sensitive taste buds, so I can pick out some flavors and seasonings. This is a challenge, and it’s hard to narrow it down to one sample,” Moore said. “I’m judging by the seasoning, the texture of the meat and the consistency of the chili mixture. Out of nine samples, I’m choosing between five.”

This year’s winner was Butch Ellis, who said this is the first time he has entered a pot of chili into the competition. Ellis said he used a recipe that was given to him by a friend, and embellished it to make it his own. As a reward, Ellis received a trophy and a $100 gift card to the Home Depot.

“I’ve come to the cook-offs before, but this is the first time that I’ve ever cooked the chili. It’s nice to get the prize. This is a wonderful feeling, and I’m very proud,” Ellis said. “Now, I have to figure out where to put this trophy until next year.”

After the cook-off, guests had the opportunity to sit by a bonfire, make s’mores and sing songs in the pasture adjacent to the church. Patrick said this was the first time the church has lit a bonfire for this event.

Moore said this was her first time to attend the Lester’s Chapel Chili Cook-Off, and said she looks forward to returning for the next year’s cook-off.

“I got a warm welcome by the pastor, and I’m just enjoying myself,” Moore said. “Because I got such a warm welcome, I know I’d like to return and tell other people about it.”

Lester’s Chapel member Ron Shaw, who has been to several chili cook-offs around the United States, said this cook-off is unique because it focuses on the community.

“All of the chili cook-offs I’ve been to are open to everybody, but this one is more community oriented. This is one of the only chili cook-offs I’ve ever been to in the state of Alabama,” Shaw said. “We’re getting more people who are outside of the church to come to this.”

While there was no cost to participate in the event, Patrick said Lester’s Chapel appreciates any donations that were made, which will be funneled into their Chelsea Food Table ministry.