Meadville Tribune

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March 20, 2013

Cooks vie for chili, chowder and soup crowns on Thursday

WOODCOCK TOWNSHIP — Pubs and taverns, college caterers and chefs who cook for seniors will go stove to stove at the Fourth Annual Chili, Chowder & Soup Cook-Off this Thursday evening.

At least 19 area restaurants and dining services seek to compete for the title of “Best” in the aforementioned culinary realms, including last year’s award-winners: Venango Valley Inn for Black Bean Chili, Rolling Fields for Best Chowder and Edinboro University’s Highlands Catering for Best Soup.

Pairs of college catering companies, country clubs, senior homes and other eateries could spice up the competition, according to Kathleen Bishop, president of the Crawford County Chamber of Commerce, event sponsor. “For the first time, we’ll have one restaurant with two chefs competing against each other,” she said, referring to returning champion Montana’s Rib & Chop House, voted People’s Choice in 2012.

This year also marks the first-time entry of local brewpub, Timber Creek Tap & Table.

Three local judges are expected to determine the best of each category while attendees can vote for the People’s Choice.

“The winners get a trophy and bragging rights,” said Bishop. “It’s interesting going to the restaurants afterward and seeing their awards on display or mentioned on their menu.”

In addition to tantalizing taste buds, the Cook-Off is expected to turn out a considerable crowd.

“It’s a lot of fun; we can expect 325 people that we know of,” said Bishop. “We could certainly have people walk in that evening (and) purchase tickets at the door.”

The Cook-Off usually turns out 300 or so taste-testers annually, treating them not only to community cuisine, but also live music by local band Necessary Experience as well as the chance to enter a silent auction with more than 30 items.

A portion of proceeds benefit Leadership Meadville, a Chamber of Commerce program designed to train the area’s current and future business leaders.

Funds raised have ranged between $8,000 and $10,000 in previous years, according to Bishop.

“That’s our goal this year,” she said. “The Chamber of Commerce is a nonprofit organization. The Leadership program offers scholarships for a nine-month class through the funds.”

The next Leadership class begins in August 2013 and will accept about 20 area adults interested in learning about leadership styles, theories and practices. Every session has covered a different business sector, including health care, public works and education.

The Cook-Off runs from 5 to 8 p.m. at the Elk’s Lodge No. 219, 15438 Route 86.

Tickets are available for $10 in advance at the Chamber office or $12 at the door.

n More information: Contact the Chamber of Commerce, 908 Diamond Park, Meadville at (814) 337-8030.

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