November 17, 2009

Spicy Cook-off Flavors VSU Pride

VALDOSTA -- As savory aromas of barbeque and chili wafted through the air, ones mouth could not help but water during Valdosta State University’s 4th annual Barbeque Chili Cook-Off in Drexel Park. The cook-off -- prior to the game against Edward Waters -- celebrated the warmth of Southern tradition blended with classic cooking techniques.

After obtaining a wrist band for “all you can eat” barbeque and chili, people walked along the festive tents serving flavorful dishes. One could not help but notice the Blazin’ Banditos tent, festively decorated as a cantina that featured a functioning jail cell containing the Edward Waters mascot. Sombreros and a string of chili peppers hung from the top of the tent, while wanted posters of team members decorated the sides. of Cacti and pin wheels surrounded the tent along with a read, “that said best chili north of the border.”

With senioritas passing out flowers, the cantina on wheels leader Tony “Bossman” Barfield -- wanted for unlawful tenderizing -- said decorations take more time then cooking the chili. Alan “the Baldwin” Sanderson, who crafted the team’s recipe, revealed a few key items in his famous chili: beans, tomatoes, hamburger meat, Sunset Farms sausage and onions; but he remained tight-lipped about the other ingredients oh his 20-year old recipe.

Judging for the chili category was based on five categories: flavor, tenderness, consistency, spices and aroma of the each contestant’s two gallons of chili. The winning team, That’s What She Said, has been making chili for the past five years. Sarah VanKuiken, VSU’s academic initiatives and residential education coordinator, said her chili has been an evolution in the exploration of flavor.

“Cooking chili for friends is always an enjoyable experience for me. The cook-off was simply an opportunity to have fun with friends and share chili with the VSU community. As a team, we met some great people while cooking and had wonderful support from our VSU family. Winning the cook-off is an honor and an added bonus to an already great day,” VanKuiken said.

Team member Ryan Teter, residential facilities coordinator, said he felt the judges liked the team’s chili because it was different without being weird. This was Teter’s third VSU chili cook-off, but a VanKuiken was new to the chili cook-off scene. The two said they were extremely honored to win this battle particularly because it’s a “VSU gig,” Teter said.

“It’s a great way to get the VSU and Valdosta community together on a Saturday for some friendly competition. Food, especially chili, is universally comforting. People are most happy when they are eating with friends and family,” Teter said. “That’s what the VSU chili cook-off is all about. It is also a great way to tailgate right before watching the Blazers take the field, Go Blazers!”

The People’s Choice Award was granted to team, Get Lucky Sometimes. Team member Grey Shriver was thoroughly surprised when his team won the popularity contest because he was not too confident in his chili. Other fellow competitors, Fletcher Ogletree and Hunter Yarborough, didn’t take home a prize, but they said they learned a great deal from the other, more seasoned cooks.

The barbeque competition, new to VSU’s chili cook-off this year, was based on flavor, tenderness, consistency, spices and aroma of the two Boston butts participants cooked for the competition. The winning team, Eddie Tyme, was thrilled when they heard the good news. Team captain, Charles White said the team’s secret was having a good time and enjoying the process.

“The bottom line is that Eddie Tyme is anytime. We spent all hours hanging out, listening to music, enjoying the weather, not to mention simmering the barbeque,” he said. “Overall we’ve had a good time and it means a lot to know the judges thought the barbeque was the best.”

Not only was the crowd satisfied by endless samples of barbeque and chili, they helped raise more than $1,000 for student scholarships. Winners in the various categories won money as well as other prizes, including four tickets to a Jacksonville Jaguars game and a free tanning membership from Beyond the Beach.

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