Downtown Plymouth Heats Up with 18th Annual Chili Cookoff

Downtown Plymouth could get hot this Sunday with the return of the 18th annual Great Lakes Regional Chili Cookoff.

The event is sanctioned by the International Chili Society (ICS) and will feature a traditional red, green and salsa competition. Winners will advance to the 2014 ICS World Championships. There will also be a people’s choice and best restaurant chili awards.

[Check out the schedule of events here]

Visitors can sample chili from about 40 cooks set up in The Gathering or the 16 participating restaurants in Kellogg Park.

Ken Horn, the founder of the chili cookoff along with his wife Annette, said the event is down on entries from last year, partly because they had to move the date up.

“The World Championship moved back to our date, and we can’t have our event on the same weekend as the World Championships. So we’ve lost some cooks because of that. And some people have told us they have other plans because they thought we were the second weekend.”

The one-day event draws between 10,000 and 20,000 people, Horn said.

“It’s very weather dependent,” he said. “Last year we were down on people. Ticket sales were down by about $20,000. It’s really hard to know because people can show up for the event and never buy a ticket, walk around, see the motorcycles and go to a restaurant.”

All chili proceeds raised from the event will benefit Habitat for Humanity, while proceeds from the motorcycle show will benefit the Penrickton Center for Blind Children.

According to Horn, last year raised about $21,000 for Habitat and $5,000 for Penrickton, which is half of what was raised in 2011.

“That’s how much the crowd matters,” Horn said.

In spite of last year’s outcome and the shortage of entries, Horn is optimistic about this year.

“We’re hoping to sell at least $50,000 tickets for sampling,” he said.

Most of the chili samples produced for the public during the event come from the restaurants participating in the Restaurant Chili Challenge, Horn said.

“The cooks in The Gathering, as hard as they work and as much as they make, can’t satisfy the all the demands for chili that we get,” he said. “Those restaurants will typically produce 30,000 to 40,000 samples. That’s just a tremendous amount, but that’s how we can feed everybody.”

Among this year’s restaurants is Jeff Zak Catering who is cooking for the first time this year.

Zak said he decided to enter, in part, because of his new location in Old Village after relocating from Forest Avenue.

“I just thought, ‘I want to bring the sexy back to Old Village,'” he said joking. “I want to get some action. I feel like everything’s too separate, you know like the art fair and all that stuff. I just thought we’d get a name down there.”

Zak has a secret weapon – a unique chili recipe never before used by him.

“There’s a component that we make all the time, it’s a vegetarian component that people love that we serve for vegetarians,” Zak said. “So that’s going to be the inspiration for the chili.”

Zak said he wasn’t yet sure if he would keep the chili vegetarian or turn it into a white chicken chili.

“You’ll have to come and find out,” he said.

Chili sampling Tickets cost $1 or $20 for 20 tickets with five voting stars to vote your favorite chili and a plastic tray holding up to 12 samples. One 20-ounce sample of chili takes one ticket, while a bowl takes four tickets. Bowls are only available from restaurants.

For more information about Sunday’s event, visit www.greatlakeschili.com

As read on: http://plymouth-mi.patch.com/groups/around-town/p/downtown-plymouth-heats-up-with-18th-annual-chili-cookoff

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