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Chilli Chefs Recipes

 
Some love it hot. Some love it mild.



But most agree it's one of the best ways to warm up on a cold afternoon in Michigan.

Returning to downtown Dowagiac this Saturday during the 12th annual Dowagiac Ice Time Festival of Greater Dowagiac Chamber of Commerce is the Professional Chili Cook-off with its new hours from 1 to 4 p.m.

This year's winter fine arts festival is being underwritten, in part, by a $2,755 fine arts mini-grant from the Arts Council of Greater Kalamazoo through the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs.

"The chili crawl, as most locals call it, is oftentimes a friendly, yet a fiercely-fought competition between participating restaurants," said Vickie Phillipson, program director of the Chamber of Commerce and Downtown Development Authority.

As one of the auxiliary events of the winter festival, the professional cook-off features five restaurants that are located downtown or within easy walking distance to the central business district.

Participating sites are Beeson Street Bar and Grill, located on Beeson Street; along with Wood Fire Italian Trattoria, The Wounded Minnow Saloon and Zeke's Restaurant on Front Street; and the Fraternal Order of the Eagles, located next to Preferred Printing on E. Railroad.


Vada Keesler of Beeson Street Bar and Grill, who claimed title to the 2007 and 2005 professional cook-off, is gearing up to defend her award-winning recipe.

Beeson Street has been a participant of the festival's cook-off from its beginning.

"Vada's chili, which is on the mild side, is loved by all of our customers and is in high demand throughout the year, and even into the summer months," said Tom Burling, co-owner of the restaurant. "It's tangy enough to please just about everyone's taste buds."

While they shied away this year from revealing their secret ingredients, previously Burling said it was her special mix of spices that was sure to chalk up the votes needed to land another victory for Beeson Street.

Anxious to return to the winner's circle, the 2006 title holder, Chef Jeremy Erb of Wood Fire Italian Trattoria, plans to make an ambitious 80 gallons of chili for this year's event.

Restaurateur Larry Seurynck touts Erb's recipe as one of the finest in the world.

While Seurynck declined to reveal Wood Fire's secret ingredients, last year Erb said he planned to scout the marketplace for "some special peppers."

Followers of the professional cook-off may remember Seurynck and Erb successfully campaigned for votes in 2006, as they tempted appetites with the notion that world-class chocolate had been added to their recipe.

For those folks who like their chili to have a little kick, Jackie O'Brien said Zeke's Restaurant plans to serve 10 gallons of their spiciest Black Bean and Chorizo Chile.

"Chipotle chilis and chorizo sausage, in our special sauce, which is thick and rich, makes this truly a unique Mexican chili," O'Brien said.

Kyle Belew, owner of The Wounded Minnow Saloon, which has been a host site from the onset of the competition, said what makes his chili special is the love that goes into the 16 gallons he plans to serve festival day.

At the Eagles, Sandra Kiggins and Kaye Rogers will combine two of their favorite recipes into what they call a mild, country chili.

The Eagles is one of the newest participants of the competition.

Families will enjoy free samples this Saturday from 1 to 4 p.m. People can start the chili crawl at any one of the five locations, where they can pick up and cast their ballot.

The restaurant that receives the most votes will receive the traveling Chili Plaque from the Chamber of Commerce. Helping to coordinate this year's cook-off are Patti Badner of the Kemner-Iott Agency of Cass County and Trish Brazo of Huntington National Bank. Both women are members of the Chamber of Commerce board of directors.

The highlight of the winter arts festival are the life-size works of art carved from 440-pound ice blocks, as members of the South Bend Chapter of the American Culinary Federation and Michiana Ice Carving Association compete for $1,800 in cash awards. Corporate sponsors that are helping to underwrite the community event are The Pokagon Fund, Dowagiac Area Federal Credit Union, Dowsett Chiropractic Health Center, First National Bank, Kemner-Iott Agency of Cass County, Lyons Industries, McLauchlin-Clark Funeral Home and Michigan Pizza Hut.

Events also include: the fifth-annual Winter Hibernation and Pajama Sale, Ladies Library Association winter book sale, Celebration Graduation's sale of hot chocolate and fresh baked goods, the new Arctic Scavenger Hunt for families, timber carving demonstration and Silent Art Auction featuring the sale of two three-foot statues, the Chamber's sale of wearable art that depicts Dowagiac's public sculptures, exhibition by Fruitbelt Wood Carvers at Who Knew? Consignment, the festival's new outdoor soda fountain carved from 1,320 pounds of ice, ice wine tasting at Front Street Winery, children's miniature snow sculpture workshop with the Miss Dowagiac court and the profession ice carving competition at Beckwith Park.

Dowagiac Ice Time 2008 is being coordinated by Chamber of Commerce president and six-time event chairman Dr. Timothy Dowsett of Dowsett Chiropractic Health Center, with the assistance of Phillipson and members of the Chamber of Commerce board of directors.

As families take part in the chili crawl, they will want to take note of the festival's showcase multi-block ice sculpture, which is sponsored by Harding's Friendly Market and will be located beneath the Haggin-Wimberley Bandstand in Beckwith Park.

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