Camp Mack Kicks Off Inagural Fire On The Lake Chili Cookoff
by James Coulter
What better time to cook and enjoy a bowl of hot chili then when the weather is getting chilly? Camp Mack seemed to have the right idea when they postponed their first annual chili cook off to late September.
Nearly a dozen chili teams traveled from across the state and even as far as Mississippi to participate in the inagural Fire On The Lake Chili Cookoff and Cornhole Tournament at Camp Mack, A Guy Harvey Resort, in Lake Wales.
Teams set up their booths six feet apart according to social distancing guidelines and spent all-day Saturday cooking theirbest pot of chili, be it homestyle, traditional red, or verde.
Tony Perry, leader of HD Chili, won first place in the traditional red division. As someone who has been cooking for the past eight months, he attributes his success to preparing his chili with only the freshest ingredients.
He has competed in several cooking contests previously. Often, he competes against his own brother, who also participated in this year’s event.
Overall, aside from winning first place, Perry loved enjoying the camraderie with his fellow teammates and competitors. Any time spent over a pot of chili is a good time for him, he said.
“I love the camraderie,” Perry said. “We enjoy it. We will be back when they have the next one.”
Perry and his team won first place in the traditional red division. Barker’s Best won first place in homestyle, and Jonathan Everett and his team won first place in verde.
Originally, the chili cook-off was to be hosted in the spring earlier this year. However, due to COVID-19, the inagural event had to be postponed to late September.
To maintain social distancing, teams were to be set more than six feet apart from each other, and tasting was only to be conducted by the judges.
“Turnout was great,” said Kevin DeNell. “My hat’s off to the cook teams. Today was a little different with everything going on today. They came out with great competition.”
DeNell himself loved cooking chili. He loved being able to watch the other teams work their own magic and prepare chili their way.
Next year’s event will be hosted in the spring as intended. However, even in spite of the late season and the looming COVID-19 crisis, the turnout proved more than fantastic, and DeNell hopes to see an even larger turnout next year.
“It is always a hard challenge for a pandemic,” he said. “But people are anxious to go outside and cook. I think that is a good place to do that.”