By Kelly Young

If the results of the J’ville Jaycees 11th Annual Chili Cook-off are any indicator, they know chili in Tyler. Residents of Tyler took home the top five prizes in a field which included chili from all across Texas.

The cook-out, which was held Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Cherokee County Expo Center, was an officially sanctioned Chili Appreciation Society International (CASI) competition. Twenty-seven entrants participated in the cook-off, with awards given to the Top 10 for taste, the top three for showmanship and the people’s choice winner. Jacksonville Mayor Dr. Robert Haberle and JISD School Board Member Sean McRight served among the final judges.

James Espinoza won the first-place prize for the best chili, with Gill Hewlitt and Jan Young rounding out the top three. The Top 10 finalists earned CASI points. Once a cook earns 10 CASI points, they are allowed to attend the Terlingua International Chili Championship in Terlingua, Texas. Espinoza’s chili earned him four CASI points, Hewlitt won three points, and Young gained two points for her third-place finish. Chili entries finishing fourth through tenth earned one CASI point, each.

Chilis were judged on five criteria — taste, aftertaste, consistency, aroma and red color.

David Lake of Skull Island Chili, a Jacksonville resident, won the first-place award from best showmanship. Lake said he has been making chili for the last 15 years.

“I’ve always loved cooking, and when I tried chili, I knew that was what I wanted to do. I’m into chili for the competition and to meet new people and to help others,” Lake said. “The secret ingredients in my chili are friendship and goodwill.”

Stefanie McMullen, president of the J’ville Jaycees, was very pleased with this year’s participation.

“There were about double the people here this year than were at last year’s cook-off. We really weren’t expecting this many people to come — this is a huge success for us,” McMullen said. “It’s always fun, but it is very technical, and they take is very seriously.”

All proceeds from the chili cook-off benefit HOPE. The Jaycees, who estimate they raised approximately $300 Saturday, is a volunteer organization which depends upon donations to fund its many programs.

So how was the chili?

“They are all excellent. You can really tell a difference in the really good ones,” Haberle said.


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