Chili cook-off brings out chefs’ competitiveness

Harvey Kraus very badly wanted to win the top prize at the Chili Cook-off, held Saturday, Jan. 12, to raise funds for the Delano High School Senior Class all night graduation party.

And he did. On his birthday.

Audra Etzel, left, and Jody Nelson preside over a multitude of crock pots containing entries in the Chili Cook off fund-raiser for the Delano High School Senior Class Party. The party committee held the event Saturday, Jan. 12 at the Local 55 Bar and Grill (formerly Harley’s) on Highway 55 in Medina. (Sun staff photo by Susan Van Cleaf)

Audra Etzel, left, and Jody Nelson preside over a multitude of crock pots containing entries in the Chili Cook off fund-raiser for the Delano High School Senior Class Party. The party committee held the event Saturday, Jan. 12 at the Local 55 Bar and Grill (formerly Harley’s) on Highway 55 in Medina. (Sun staff photo by Susan Van Cleaf)

Kraus’ chili interpretation featured top sirloin, and cook-off visitors liked his unique twist. The fruits of his labor included a $50 cash prize and the honor of having his chili recipe featured for a month at Local 55 Bar & Grill, 4445 Highway 55 in Medina, the scene of the chili competition. Audra Etzel of Rockford Township came in second and Butch Olstad of Greenfield took third place.

The DHS Graduation Party Committee found a way to get cook-off visitors involved in the event. Each visitor paid $5 for a spoon, 10 sample cups and a ballot on which to vote for his or her three favorite entries. Many of these judges hung around to the very end to see how their favorites fared.

Ten contestants entered the event, and more than one of them was looking for something that would make their chili stand out. One creation had a hint of sweetness that turned out to be baked beans, and the chef had added corn for a different taste.

Jeff Cline of Loretto prepared to plunge his spoon into his ninth chili sample. He said it took him about a half-hour to taste eight of the entries. He lamented the fact that he had not entered his chili, one he has been making for 30 years.

After Cline was married 40 years ago, he began asking his mother for her chili recipe. When he finally got it, he added his own touches. Now the Cline chili, “is definitely not the original recipe,” he said.

His version features deer venison and antelope and elk meat. He also throws in three kinds of beans and jalapeno peppers. Because of the peppers and other seasonings, he has to taste his creation every step of the way. His unique cooking process involves boiling the chili, simmering it, cooling it and reheating it.

To judge all 10 chili samples, cook-off visitors had to come hungry, cleanse their pallets with beer or water, and take breaks between samples. This was not a time to eat and run.

Members of the Graduation Party Committee explained why they organize the all night party each year. “It’s secret, it’s exciting,” and a way for all the kids to be safe in one place, said Lisa Dahlberg.

Lana Nelson said, “I hate to give away too much” about this year’s party. It begins at the school and moves to a secret location. The kids can spend time alone with each other while being chaperoned.

Steve Dahlberg called the event “a last hurrah for the kids.”

The party will be drug and alcohol free and open to all seniors. The committee is expecting 200 kids to attend the June 2nd party.

The planning committee calls the senior graduation party “our gift as parents to our graduating seniors.” The party is fully sponsored by parents through fund-raisers and business donations. Fund raising events have included a holiday fair, omelet breakfast and the chili cook-off.

The next fund raisers will be a Turtle Lake Casino trip Saturday, Feb. 23, for people ages 21 or older. The bus will leave one of four locations at 11 a.m. and arrive at the casino at 12:30 p.m. Departure time from the casino will be 4:30 p.m. and arrival time at the original location is set for 6 p.m.

A $20 fee for the trip will pay for the bus, beverages and $5 in spending money for the casino. To sign up for the trip, visit in person Local 55 Bar & Grill; Dave’s Town Club, 136 N. River St. in Delano; Delano Lanes, 429 Babcock Blvd. E. in Delano or Detour 19, 300 N. Medina St. in Loretto. For more information, e-mail Steve Dahlberg at sldalhberg@hotmail.com or dhsgradparty2013@gmail.com.

 

Contact Susan Van Cleaf at susan.vancleaf@ecm-inc.com

 
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