Cook-off

Sue McConnell, the first chili cook-off champ.

BY MARC HARGETT

Record Gazette

The pleasing aroma of homemade chili wafted through the hall of the Banning Woman’s Club Tuesday afternoon.

The club launched its first ever BWC Chili Cook Off, highlighting the cooking talents of four of its members.

“This is our first year. I want this to grow into a competition where people are waiting to get in and eat the chili,” said Fran DeVries, president of the Banning Women’s Club.

The newly formed competition was part of the club’s move to honor military veterans for their service during this patriotic time of the year.

There was much hustle and bustle around the slow cooker-lined serving table as participants made ready their dishes for judging.

It was a fierce competition as the four ladies brought their best interpretation of the classic American dish.

There was a good mix of style and presentation for the chilis ranging from thick and hearty, to meaty, and spicy to slightly sweet.

The cook-off competitors were Dorothy Lewis, Carol Ecker, Sue McConnell and Agnes Merz.

The playful group of ladies in attendance ate their fill of chili alongside salad, cornbread and Frito chips.

Talk around the tables was intense as the ladies independently gave their opinions of their choices of chili.

But there could only be one winner.

The judging had strict guidelines and was based on five categories: color, aroma, taste, heat and texture.

The judging was intense, but the panel of three culinary novices came to a close decision.

Judges for the competition were Helen Enriquez from the Cultural Alliance, Pat Murkland of the Dorothy Ramon Learning Center, and the author of this article from the Record Gazette.

“The judging was tough. It was close,” Enriquez said. “They were all so good.”

Finally, after much deliberation, the winner by a single vote was announced.

The winner, with a thick gravy based chili, plenty of meat to offset the beans, and great balance of spice, was Sue McConnell.

Her prize was the recently coveted BWC Chili Cook Off Apron.

McConnell has only been a member of the club for one month.

Following the competition, members were given the opportunity to speak of a loved one’s service to this nation.

The keynote speaker was Len Tavernetti of Beaumont who served 21 years in the Army and received a Purple Heart from a firefight in a rubber tree plantation during his service in Vietnam.

Tavernetti wore a purple polo shirt to the meeting honoring the medal he and others have received.

After his retirement from the Army, Tavernetti has invested his time in an organization that is dear to his heart, the Military Order of the Purple Heart.

The organization is exclusively made up of men and women who were wounded on the battlefield in service to this country and were awarded the Purple Heart Medal.

It is the only service club authorized by the Congress.

Staff Writer Marc Hargett may be reached at mhargett@recordgazette.net , or by calling (951) 849-4586 x117.

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