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The Telegram
  • Chili Challenge draws a crowd

  • The 11th annual Chili Challenge took place Sunday at Francesca’s Banquets and Catering in Ilion. People from all over the Mohawk Valley attended to enjoy hot chili on a cool winter day.

    “The room was filled with people by 1 p.m. and the event goes until 3 p.m., so turnout has been great,” said Chili Challenge Chairwoman and Red Cross board member Denise Snyder.

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  • The 11th annual Chili Challenge took place Sunday at Francesca’s Banquets and Catering in Ilion. People from all over the Mohawk Valley attended to enjoy hot chili on a cool winter day.
    “The room was filled with people by 1 p.m. and the event goes until 3 p.m., so turnout has been great,” said Chili Challenge Chairwoman and Red Cross board member Denise Snyder.
    Proceeds from the event will go toward the Mohawk Valley Chapter of the American Red Cross to provide relief and aid to victims of disasters, as well as training for emergency responders.
    “I’ve hosted the event for the past three years and it’s a really great cause to support right here in the Mohawk Valley,” said Francesca Magro, owner of Francesca’s Banquets and Catering.
    Celebrity chairman Don Shipman added, “The challenge is a great event where people can have fun, try some chili and at the same time benefit the Red Cross.”
    There was a wide variety of chili to taste. “There’s hot chili, spicy chili, sweet chili. It gives everyone a chance to enjoy a little bit of everything,” Shipman said.
    Fairways Restaurant owner Bill Pettengill said his chili was an Italian style chili. “It’s made with sweet sausage, Saranac Pale Ale and long hot peppers, so it has a little heat but it’s not too hot,” he said.
    In the Amateur League, Matt and Laura Powers made a vegan style chili known as Veg Head Chili.
    “The name of the chili plays on The Grateful Dead and the special ingredient which gives it that sweet taste is cinnamon,” said Laura Powers.
    Cinnamon was the special ingredient of the day as it was used in many chili recipes, including Assemblyman Marc Butler’s winning recipe for the most creative in the Amateur League.
    “Our chili is sirloin based with a little hint of cinnamon for a sweet flavor,” said Butler’s wife, Susan.
    Although Butler’s chili may have been creative, his presentation was most likely what made him the winner for his Ab’Normal Brain chili. “I was watching ‘Young Frankenstein’ and I was really inspired by that movie, so this year I decided to be a mad doctor,” he said.
    Sandy Marusic and Lynda Cockett were fans and fellow co-workers of Butler.
    “I love coming and we had to come and see what Marc Butler would do this year. Every year his table is always really fun,” said Marusic.
    “I really enjoy coming every year. It’s good to see such a big crowd this year,” Cockett added.
    Laura Connor, of Utica, was full halfway through the event. Connor said her favorite chili was that of Amateur League People’s Choice winner Frank “Rusty” Brown. “I’m definitely coming back next year because it’s something fun to do and the chili is great,” she said.
    Page 2 of 2 - Marty and Shawn Flint, of Westmoreland, said it was their first time at the Chili Challenge.
    “We heard about the event on WKTV and decided to try it this year, and we’re glad we did,” said Shawn Flint. “Out of all the chili our favorites are Fairways and Froggy’s.”
    “The event was at a good location and it wasn’t hard to find. We got right on Thruway from Westmoreland and got off in Herkimer,” said Marty Flint.
    Although it was their first time at the challenge, the Flints are not strangers to chili challenges.
    “I really like chili and in the past we’ve traveled to a chili challenge cookoff in Indiana at a local mall,” Marty Flint added.
    Saranac Brewery was also on site for beer tasting of the brewery’s newest beer, Red IPA. Saranac Brewery Tour Guide Supervisor Ryan Bliss said the featured Red IPA will be available in the Saranac spring variety pack and in its own pack.
    Winners of the Chili Challenge for the Restaurant League were Dominick’s Deli for People’s Choice; Salvatore’s Sorrento for Most Unique; Froggy’s Takeout for Best Presentation and PK’s Pub for Hottest. Amateur League winners were Frank “Rusty” Brown for People’s Choice and Butler for Most Creative.
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