If presentation and panache were all that counted, then the football fans responsible for “The Tailgater” would have cleaned up at last week’s high school chili cook-off in Cloverdale.
As it played out, the award for Best Sportsmanship went to Chris Helmhold and Adam Foster of Riverside Secondary in Port Coquitlam for their Tailgater Chili, an entry recreating the essential elements of a perfect pre-game parking lot party, from the requisite fan essentials of sports jerseys, football helmets and folding lounge chairs (refreshments tucked into the arms) to an impressively well-stocked ice chest filled with pop and juice.
They researched recipes and mixed and matched ingredients to come up with their chili, which relies on a bit of beer, chipotle peppers – giving it “a really nice, smokey flavour,” said Foster – and adobo sauce, along with beef, spicy sausage and bacon, which provided the grease used to sauté the veggies.
Their entry was inspired by a memorable pre-game party hosted by a professional sports team.
“We thought it would be really cool” to assemble the elements of “a great start to a big game,” Foster said.
The long-standing invitational, held May 12 at the Cloverdale Fairgrounds, sees secondary school teams prepare chili from scratch on small propane stoves set up on folding tables. They have a set amount of time to complete the chili, plate it, and present it to a panel of judges.
Themes – complete with table decorations, garnishes and even costumes – are encouraged.
Lord Tweedsmuir’s Garth Stromberg-Smith was dressed in khaki fatigues, standing behind a folding table loaded with genuine army rations and upside down army helmets containing glass bowls at the ready for serving time. A Seaforth Highlanders cadet, he found culinary inspiration in military history, pulling out all the stops for his Military Chili, despite the fact that his teammate had to cancel due to illness.
His recipe was based on an army recipe used in mess halls during the Second world War.
He was awarded Best Team Spirit for his efforts.
Other teams got creative, adding curry for an Asian flair or fresh seafood.
“Everybody’s making the classic chili, so we’re, like, mixing it up a bit,” said Frank Hurt Secondary student Manisha Naicker, whose team called their entry Indian Chili.
Best Overall Chili was awarded to La Fajitas by Lord Tweedsmuir’s Brianna Campbell and Hope Steves. The pair also won best Meat Chili.
For Surrey trustee and judge Laurae McNally, the assignment is a highlight of the school calendar year.
She came prepared with milk, which cleanses the palate and calms the tummy during tastings, and brought a stash of Tums for its antacid properties.
She said other judges prefer yogurt to beat the heat.
“It’s fun. I just love it,” she beamed.
The annual competition is hosted by Lord Tweedsmuir Secondary’s culinary arts department, drawing a dozen or so teams from across Surrey and nearby cities, and usually a school from outside the Lower Mainland.
This year, a high school in Kamloops entered two teams. Their students boarded a bus at 5 a.m. on the day of the competition to make the trip to the Alice McKay Building to go toe-to-toe with teams from across Surrey and neighbouring cities in the Lower Mainland.