Wheeling Feeling Chili Cook-off set for June 7 at Heritage Port

The call is going out for chili cooks to sign up now for the 12th Annual Wheeling Feeling Chili Cook-off set for Saturday, June 7 at Wheeling’s Heritage Port.

The Homestyle Chili category is open to all comers, which means anything goes for ingredients, as long as there are chili spices and peppers included. This popular category opens competition to vegetarian and vegan cooks, and those who like to add beans, pasta, potatoes, rice, or other similar ingredients to their chili.

The first-place winner in the Homestyle Category will take home a $200 cash prize. Rose Humway-Warmuth, cook-off chair, said the Commercial Cooks category is open to all comers as well, with cash prizes being offered.

While the Commercial Division traditionally has included restaurants and caterers, Humway-Warmuth said other groups can enter this category, which allows the entrants to bring prepared chili to the event, rather than preparing it on-site.

All other chili entries must be prepared onsite from fresh ingredients. Cooks are to provide their own cooking sources and utensils. Tents, tables, chairs and ice will be provided free as part of the entry fee.

Sponsors include the City of Wheeling, WTRF-TV 7, and Carenbauer Distributing.

The United Way will man a chili booth, serving up chili donated from several local restaurants.One of the commercial participants who has been at the Chili Cook-off since the first one in 2002 is Charlie Schlegel of Ye Olde Alpha.

“It’s a great event,” Schlegel said. “It’s considered the kick-off for the whole outdoor festivals season. And Brian and Rose Warmuth run a well-organized event that helps the United Way and that’s a great cause.”

Schlegel added that the Chili Cook-off means being able to “be outside, eat great food, listen to great music, and drink cold beer that’s a really good formula!” Other commercial chili cooks should note that Schlegel said that while their basic chili formula will remain the same, Ye Olde Alpha is tweaking the seasoning. “We’re always working to make it better,” he said.

Schlegel and head chili judge Brian Warmuth recently taped a demonstration on making competition-style red chili and salsa for WLUTV-14 “Concert in the Kitchen.” The program airs on Channel 14, the city’s public access channel. The show can also be viewed on-line at vimeo.com/channels/westlibertytv.

The Wheeling Feeling Chili Cook-off is sanctioned by the International Chili Society, meaning that the first place ICS winners in the Red, Verde, Salsa and Homestyle categories are eligible to enter the 2014 ICS World Cook-off set for October in California. They also will be eligible to enter the World Food Championship set for November 12-18 in Las Vegas.

The winners in the ICS categories will win cash prizes. Participants are invited to a free Cooks’ Party at 6 p.m. Friday, June 6 at the WesBanco Arena patio. Admission to the cook-off is free, and chili samples will be available with tickets sold onsite.

All proceeds will benefit the United Way of the Upper Ohio Valley. There will be a car show and the bands Steel Cassa and Hit Play will entertain throughout the day. Chili cooks can enter at www.chilicookoff.com; www.wheelingwv.gov/chili or by calling (304) 234-3636. The ICS membership fee for first-time cooks will be waived.