Chili is a heated debate, in more ways than one. It has a long history of controversy over "who has the best tasting..." Maybe that is because it is a recipe that you can take many interesting liberties with. Hoboken Volunteers tapped into that crockpotted competitiveness five years ago, and the competition has only grown spicier since. On Saturday, Hoboken Volunteers held their fifth annual Chili Cookoff and Homebrewing competition at the Elks Lodge, cooking up $11K for this year's beneficiary, the Jubilee Center. The competition was fierce, the judges were hard to impress and the taste...was heavenly.
So as it turns out, a lot of people in Hoboken like chili and beer (surprised?). The line to get in extended past Elysian Café and the crowd was, well you can see from the picture. There were twenty-seven chili recipes to try and seventeen beers to test. Luckily, Hoboken Volunteers provided this years online ticket purchasers with adorable logo-ed glasses to sample home brews. This was clutch because within the first hour, the entire room's mouths were on fire. Several people opted for the water bottles on sale at the bar, unable to wait to quench. Local brewers however, like 902 Brewing and Hoboken Brewing Co., were keg-ready from the first bite. Hoboken Brewing Co. even strung together an edible social media exchange: a pretzel necklace for a Facebook like.
From bacon to cumin, recipe after recipe attempted to seduce people's peppery palates. Say that three times fast. And the chili chefs weren't the only ones getting crafty! Homebrews offered coconut beers, milk chocolate beers, coffee beers and more. Anything to win over the fierce panel of judges: Hoboken Girl Jennifer Casson, Star Ledger reporter Pete Genovese and Chef at Bin 14 and Anthony David's Justin Anotorio. Entrants also had to win over the crowd to fight for fan favorite.
While many professional chefs and local restaurateurs participated, ultimately it was the ad hoc recipes that took home the titles. Entrants "Stronger than the Storm," who landed third place in best judged chili conjured up their recipe post Hurricane Sandy. Having had little in the cupboards and no warm meals for days, cousins Alcira Zuluaga and Doris Barros decided it was time for comfort food. They tossed wheat berry into some chili for a healthy alternative to storm food and voila! a star recipe was born.
Second place went to chili connoisseur Abbey Bell, who was last year's reigning chili champion. Her Gold Standard chili was able to delight judges once again.
The first place trophy, presented by Freeholder Anthony Romano ultimately went to Matt Worgul and wife Julie Worgul of Bogota, NJ. The Worguls are a teacher and a CPA who tossed bacon and Italian sausage into their mix in an effort to "allow everyone to find more flavor in their life." Coincedentally, this is the second chili victory for the Worguls, the first being just two weeks ago. They hope to open a local gastropub in 2015 with small plates and rotating menus.
Other winners include(d): Best Judged Beer: 1st Place - Kendall Eskew with English Brown Ale, 2nd Place - Nate Palmer with American IPA, 3rd Place - Diana Dale & Melissa Surach with Sherry Cayenne Vanilla Stout, Best Judged Veggie Chili: Soul D's Café, Fan Favorite Chili: Smoink Brothers and Fan Favorite Beer: Hoboken Brewing Company with Bodhi Blonde.
All in all, Jubilee Center board member, Dale Kindregan could not have seemed more enthused over the turnout of the event and the life it is able to breathe into their programming. The Jubilee Center's mission is to help children and their families break through barriers and live fulfilling lives with a variety of programs. The cookoff profits go directly to supporting the Jubilee Center's sleep away camp for children.
“We are extremely proud to be celebrating our 5th Annual Chili Cook-Off and Homebrewing Contest," said Founder of Hoboken Volunteers, Tim Occhipinti. "Thanks to the Hoboken community this event continues to grow and get better every year. We are very pleased to have raised $11,000 for the Jubilee Center and their children's summer camp overnight trip.”