WHEELING - 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.
A vintage 1968 Mercury Cougar prowls the Wheeling Waterfront, perhaps in search of the chili to be cooked up in the 12th annual Wheeling Feeling Chili Cook-off set for June 7 at the Heritage Port. Surrounding the Jebbia family’s 60s muscle car with their chili preparations are, from left: Erin Carenbauer Ball, Carenbauer Distributing; Melynda Sampson of the United Way of the Upper Ohio Valley; Rusty Jebbia, City of Wheeling; George Smoulder, United Way executive director; Rose Humway-Warmuth, cook-off chair; Olivia Litman, marketing director, Wheeling Convention and Visitors Bureau; Justin Droginske, chili chef, Ye Old Alpha; Allison O’Konski Skibo, City of Wheeling marketing director.
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.
Sponsors include the City of Wheeling, WTRF-TV 7, and Carenbauer Distributing.
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.
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 Nov. 12-18 in Las Vegas.
Admission to the cook-off is free, and chili samples will be available with tickets sold on-site. 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.