Chili chefs are busy cooking up their formula for success in preparation for the second-annual "Great Chili Cookoff" slated to get underway Friday at 11 a.m. under the tent in the parking lot of the Fort Frances Times.
In an event set to rival its inaugural predecessor last October, the three-hour cookoff will feature 16 different blends of chili, with the cooks once again vying for the prestigious "Award for Best Chili."
Returning to defend his title is Dave LaRocque, chef from the Red Dog Inn, whose "Chinese Chili" garnered him top honours last year.
"The pressure’s on me. I’m really hoping to win," he enthused. "I have a new recipe but I don’t know what I would call it, though. I’ve just been making it up in my head.
LaRocque said his new concoction won’t be overly hot to the palate but definitely will have a one-of-a-kind taste.
"It’s just going to be a unique recipe with lots of colour and texture," he noted. "It will have nice flavour with all the coloured peppers I can find, different kinds of beans, and two different kinds of meat.
"Maybe I should call it ‘Rainbow Chili,’" he chuckled.
Also returning for a second "seasoning" is Emo Reeve Brian Reid, owner of the Fairway Store there. While he said he couldn’t remember what last year’s recipe included, he did know it was good because there wasn’t any left over to take home.
"I don’t know what I made but I got rid of it all," he smiled.
His contender this year, "Texas Chili," is a new-found recipe he got from a gentleman who came into the store looking for a different kind of chili meat.
"He said ‘Texas Chili’ was supposed to have coarser ground-like sausage meat," Reeve Reid explained. "I tried [his recipe] and it was good."
He said his chili also includes jalapenos, garlic, cayenne and oregano. "It won’t be burning hot but it will have some zip to it," he promised.
One of the more "educational" chili experiences at Friday’s cookoff will come in the form of "Mighty Muskie Mush," an invention in taste by three members of Fort High’s administration.
"It will be a learning opportunity," mused FFHS vice-principal Mary Hickling, who will be joined by fellow vice-principal Bob Grynol, and principal Terry Ellwood.
"We have all contributed our favourite ingredients. I always have carrots, celery and mushrooms in my chili," she said. "Bob will put in the crispy bacon and I think Terry is adding the hot peppers."
"We all have a hand in it," agreed Ellwood. "It will be a remarkable, unforgettable experience for our customers but not a punishment."
"We absolutely will [win]," he stressed with mock seriousness. "And just to let the public know, we will be using hamburger rather than the called for muskie fillets."
Meanwhile, two local OPP officers will be entering their "In the Heat of the Night" chili under guarded conditions, mused one member of the duo.
"It’s top secret," chuckled Cst. Steve Maki. who warned he and Cst. Mark Boileau will be taking precautionary measures even during the chili cooking procedure tomorrow evening.
"It’s going to be quite the operation. The ambulance people will be there because you never know what can happen when you’re creating a masterpiece," he joked.
"Just don’t let the name fool you."
But eager to rival the cooking talents of the local police force is Times staff writer Mark Elliott with his "Filipino Revenge," suggesting he’s looking forward to the challenge.
"I have a chef friend who picked up this hot sauce from the Mall of America. I’ll be making two batches of chili--one not so hot and the other for those who are adventurous," he said.
The hot sauce being used in the second batch is made from Habanero peppers, which Elliott said are at least 100 times more powerful than what Jalapenos dish out.
"I dare you to try it," he smiled. "Especially you wimpy Cst. Steve Maki and Mark Boileau."
Others taking part in the chili cookoff include Linda Blanc/Shawn Goodhart, Anne/Alan Zucchiatti, Geoff Gillon, Kristen Delzotto, Carl Scott, Scott Doherty, Barb Tibbs, Brian/Nancy Cawston, Bev/Fay and Don, Guy Klem, and Irene Badiuk.
All 16 entries will be taste-tested by a panel of five local judges to determine the winner.
All proceeds from the event, including funds raised through the popular "Cake Roulette," will be donated to area food banks.