Londonderry church turns up the heat for Habitat for Humanity
LONDONDERRY - Some hot new culinary talent debuted at St. Peter's Episcopal Church in Londonderry Saturday night at a chili cook-off to benefit Greater Manchester Habitat for Humanity.
Batches of hot and hotter chili, vegetarian and grilled steak chili, green and even white chili from 22 local cooks were set out for sampling on tables that wrapped around the church hall.
A crowd of kids and adults went from pot to pot tasting as many versions of the dish as they could get to.
"We charged people to enter their cooking, and we charged people to come and eat," said event organizer Lee O'Connor, who was clearly pleased with the dynamics of chili cook-offs.
The church raised about $1,000 to buy materials for Greater Manchester Habitat for Humanity's renovation of a three-family home at 50 Hosley St. in Manchester. Church members have helped with some framing for the house, but that job was cut short.
"Sometimes work goes a little faster than you expect," said Habitat for Humanity coordinator Liz Rakich. "We ran out of materials."
Church members decided to move the project forward by raising some cash for supplies. When it's finished, 50 Hosley St. will be three new condos for families that fit the organization's income guidelines.
"We're helping other people help themselves," said O'Connor. "It's a great way to make a difference."
And a great reason to shout out to local chili cooks who, like others on the Granite State chili circuit, are particular about their recipes. O'Connor enlisted three celebrity judges to pick a winner of the cook off.
State Sen. Sharon Carson, Lt. Jon Cares of the Londonderry Fire Department and Dan Mancini, owner of Halligan Tavern in Derry, tasted and re-tasted before declaring the Chunks of Burning Love chili and Sweet and Kicky the top two entries.
"I have just one word for all of them - awesome," said Carson, who added that her district had the best cooks around.
"And it's great to see people coming together for these community activities," she said.
Cares, a self-acknowledged "chili snob" said people always find their own twist when cooking chili.
"I had a couple of favorites," said Cares who admitted he really doesn't think chili needs much in the way of vegetables. Meat and spices pretty much do it.
"I make chili and corn bread at the firehouse," said Cares.
He also cooks up his specialty, chicken Cordon Bleu, for fellow firefighters.
Husband and wife competitors Jon and Fay Morlock whipped up individual batches of chili for the cook-off.
"I wanted to make something different, so I made a chili verde," said Fay Morlock. "It doesn't have any red peppers, just green peppers."
Jon Morlock took a more traditional route.
"Mine was a Texas style chili with grilled steak," he said, adding it wasn't over-the-top hot. "But it had a lot of chili peppers that I ground up myself."
Whether it was green, white, red, hot, mild or sweet, every batch seemed to have a following. Still, there were a couple food critics in the crowd.
Peter Henry of Derry said the cooks did a good job but there was one minor problem.
"It just wasn't hot enough," Henry said. "Chili isn't chili unless it clears out your sinuses."