The key to making a great chili is preparing the sauce first, says one contestant at the ninth annual Gasoline Alley Harley Davidson Chili Cook Off.
Todd Swenson, a salesman at Harley Davidson, made one of eight competing chilis at Saturday’s event, which raised money for the Red Deer Hospice Society.
“Cooking’s been my passion for years – it’s probably what I should have done for a living,” Swenson said, as he passed a cup of chili to a cook off attendee.
“I made my first gold-medal chili in 1994 and again in ‘95. More recently I’ve won here in Gasoline Alley twice, once in Kelowna, once in Edson – all over the place.”
Swenson kept his recipe on his table for any guest to see – his “COVID Killer” chili featured a blend of 39 ingredients.
“The key to any chili is to make the sauce first because if you can taste the sauce and it’s so good that you just want to drink it, imagine what it’s going to taste like with the fried meat, the peppers and the kidney beans. It brings it all together,” said Swenson, who has been working at Harley Davidson since 2011.
“I don’t make the chili too hot because you’re going to lose votes that way. (It) will numb your mouth and you won’t taste anything else.”
While Swenson didn’t have time to taste the other competitors’ chili, he said everyone there had something special to offer.
“I love how people are getting involved and cooking, because I’m such a cooking fan. This brings people out, which we haven’t had in a long time so this is really exciting. Being able to compete is great.
“It’s a great day, a great turnout and it’s all for a good cause in the hospice.”
Laurie Holland, a nurse at the Red Deer Hospice Society, said events like this are important for the facility, which provides palliative care for those facing the end of life in central Alberta.
“The hospice is nonprofit – it’s run by donations, fundraising. We have 16 beds now and we’re usually at full capacity,” said Holland.
It costs $580 a day to take care of a patient. Like many nonprofit groups, COVID-19 has impacted the facility.
“We rely heavily on donations and this year … a lot of things that we’ve normally done (to raise money) have been cancelled or just tweaked. It’s nice to see so many people here (at the Chili Cook Off),” said Holland.