WALLINGFORD — The Wallingford Elks Lodge held its annual chili cook-off on Sunday.
“There’s no two alike … it’s a big surprise when they all come in,” said Tom Smith, a past exalted ruler who runs the contest and serves as a judge.
As he sampled the 13 entries, Smith looked for tender meat, the right mix of spices and fresh ingredients. Luckily, the contestants take their recipes seriously and eschew even basic shortcuts like onion powder.
That mindset paid off for Butch Tangredi and daughter Lily Tangredi, who took home first place. The elder Tangredi said the peppers are the key to a good chili. He has perfected his recipe over a dozen years participating in the contest.
The winners are chosen by past exalted rulers, who are sequestered in another room to conduct a blind testing based on appearance, taste, texture and after-taste. The top three finishers and People’s Choice recipient were presented with gift cards to local restaurants provided by an anonymous donor.
Not all the entries were crafted with a time-tested recipe. Rich Foley’s “garbage chili” is a medley of ingredients from his fridge and pantry, including jelly, mustard and soy sauce. He starts with onions and peppers and samples it as he goes. Every year it turns out different.
“I start with some leftovers that I have and go from there,” he said.
Foley said his hope the lodge’s cooking contests bring in new, younger members. About 200 people attended Sunday’s event.
“This is what I like seeing at the lodge,” he said, motioning to a baby carriage. “It’s a family organization, bring your kids with you.”