Chili contest in Hudson is one spicy competition
Pinkerton Academy culinary arts student Leah Hooper, a sophomore, serves up a spicy chili prepared from junior Corynn Borelli's family recipe during the 2013 NH State Chili Cookoff Championship in Hudson on Saturday. The popular event, which is sanctioned by the International Chili Society, raises funds for the Alvirne High School music program. (APRIL GUILMET PHOTO)
According to Alvirne Friends of Music Vice President Chris McNalley, cooks from all over New England participate in the friendly competition, along with a couple of top chili chefs traveling somewhat farther.
These days the event is the organization's largest fundraiser, with proceeds going toward music scholarships, instruments and band trip expenses for financially strapped students who otherwise would be unable to participate in music programs.
Chili enthusiasts competed in three categories on Saturday: traditional red chili, chili verde and homemade salsa.
Michael Lesperance of Fredrickson, New Brunswick, Canada, said Saturday's competition was his fourth time participating in such an event.
His advice for budding chefs?
"Practice, experiment and keep your eyes and ears open because on days like this you'll hear things you weren't intended to hear," Lesperance said. "That's how you'll learn if something is too salty or if it's not hot enough."
The three friends, all enrolled in Pinkerton Academy's culinary arts program, said their entry was based on Borelli's old family recipe.
Wearing matching moose memorabilia, Loudon residents Dave and Stacy Kelly served up their own spicy batch, under the guise of "Swamp Donkey Chili," an homage to the couple's fondness for moose hunting.
Another booth, hosted by the Tankis family from Webster, Mass., was adorned with yellow rubber ducks.
Vicki Tankis said the booth's name, "Lucky Duck Chili," came from her 13-year-old daughter Vinessa's talent placing first "in just about everything she enters."
"For us, chili was kind of inherited," added Tankis, whose father won an international chili championship back in 2007.
Colt, who now lives in Newton, Mass., entered his first chili competition in Connecticut last month.
After several hours of cooking and tasting, Marc Frechette of Connecticut earned first place for salsa; Sean McGrath, also of Connecticut, earned first place for chili verde; and Londonderry's Mary Alice Kropp earned first place for traditional chili.