My taste buds were put to the test Saturday afternoon as I stepped in as one of three judges to decide which fire department and which local restaurant would win the 7th Annual Wellington Firefighter’s Association Chili Cookoff.
Joining me as judges this year were Wellington Eagles trustee Bill Schram and police chief Tim Barfield.
Five fire departments and two restaurants took on the challenge. Participants included the Wellington, Lorain, Rochester, Grafton Township and Wakeman fire departments, the Eagles, and Fort’s Tavern.
Judges were each presented with seven bowls. To keep the makers of the chili hidden, the bowls were numbered.
Our job was to taste each chili and rank them on a scale from one to 10, with higher numbers corresponding to better flavor.
This was my first time judging any type of cooking contest so I wasn’t quite sure how to approach the taste-testing.
Following my journalistic instincts, I started taking notes.
Each recipe was unique and tasty in its own way. Some came with cornbread and a couple were topped with a dollop of sour cream.
Chili number one was sweet while chili number three had a bit of a bite to it.
Chili number five and chili number two included chicken but were wildly different. Number five had strong savory flavors and number two had a Spanish vibe with its corn, black bean, and rice elements.
After tasting all seven and describing what I liked and didn’t like, I went back through and rated them from my most favorite to least favorite.
After Scram, Barfield, and I turned in our scoring sheets, the results were tabulated: Fort’s Tavern came in first for the restaurants. The Eagles took second place.
Rochester ranked top among the the fire departments and Grafton Township won second place.
The winning fire department and restaurant then had their chili tasted by Eagles treasurer Jim Donaldson. His job was to declare a grand champion.
Donaldson had no idea who created which chili when he dug in but determined Rochester was the most delicious.
First and second place winners got to take home trophies, as did the grand champion.
Wellington firefighter Derick Oswald said it takes a group effort to coordinate the chili cookoff. The district hopes each year to have 10 participants but he thought it was a good turnout.
“I think everyone had fun,” he said.
All of the event’s proceeds were donated to Well-Help, which provides a range of services to local families in need.
Kelsey Leyva can be reached at 440-647-3171 or @TWE_KelseyLeyva on Twitter.
Photos by Kelsey Leyva | Wellington Enterprise Wellington Eagles trustee Bill Schram, police chief Tim Barfield, and I judge seven different chilies Saturday afternoon at the 7th Annual Wellington Firefighters Association’s Chili Cookoff.