By George Slaughter
With colder temperatures expected this weekend, it’s a good time to enjoy some hot chili. Plenty will be available for tasting and enjoyment at the third annual Texas Chili Cook-Off Friday.
The cook-off is set for 4-7 p.m. Friday at 814 East Avenue. Proceeds benefit the Future Farmers of America (FFA) chapters at the Katy Independent School District high schools.
Bill Lacy, an independent mortgage broker and cookoff organizer, said the cookoff raised approximately $3,500 last year, and has raised $4,200 so far this year. The first cookoff, in 2019, raised about $3,000.
“Our goal is $6,000, and I hope we’ll blow that out of the water,” Lacy said.
Lacy said 23 teams have signed up to compete Friday. Under social distancing guidelines, teams are being given two parking spaces each. Lacy said he expects a couple of hundred people to attend.
Following last year’s cookoff, Lacy met with Matthew Ferraro, president of the Katy Area Chamber of Commerce, who had expressed an interest in the chamber becoming involved in the event. The chamber today is a cook-off presenting partner, and Lacy praised how the chamber has marketed the event to its large membership.
“I’m really proud and pleased,” Lacy said. “Matthew does such a good job. They realize this is something that will happen every year. Our goal is to grow it year after year.”
The cookoff has grown to where organizers have been urged to consider a larger venue in the future, Lacy said.
The cook-off has a greater urgency this year when it comes to fundraising. Typically, the Katy Rodeo is staged alongside the Katy ISD FFA Livestock Show, although they are separate organizations staging separate events. The pandemic compelled rodeo organizers to postpone—hopefully not cancel—the rodeo this year. Rodeo proceeds benefit the FFA students.
Lacy said each high school in the Katy Independent School District has its own FFA chapter.
“The more you dig into FFA, the more incredible it becomes,” Lacy said. “They (FFA students) are raising chickens and goats, and not just lambs. They work their tails off. These children work so hard to raise their animals. It’s a terminal livestock show and auction. It’s one of the most humbling things I’ve experienced, and this is one reason I sponsor the cook-off. If you walk through the barn after the show, there you will see children with the animals they raised. These animals are more than just animals. To see them say goodbye to these animals who have become their friends, it brings a tear to your eye. The lessons that these children learn are not just about how to raise the animals. It teaches them about the cycle of life.”
At Friday’s cook-off, chili enthusiasts will be given a Styrofoam cup, a plastic spoon, and three tokens. They visit the various booths, and try the chili. They vote for their favorites by leaving a token at the booth. The booth with the most tokens wins first prize.
So, what goes into a good chili?
“Quality meat, patience, lots of luuuv,” Lacy said, emphasizing the “luuuv” spelling. “It can’t be so sharp that it’s acidic. I like a good, definite flavored chili. Not one that was super spicy. Not too much cumin or chili powder. You don’t want to have heartburn with chili. You want a good warm, feeling that kinds of warms you up.”
Lacy said he likes chili with plenty of meat. He typically puts beans in his chili, but said he hasn’t decided whether to include them in this year’s batch. It’s a matter of taste.
“If you don’t like beans, take ‘em out,” Lacy said. “This whole thing is good and fun. Yes, there’s a bit of competitiveness to it, but it’s fun. It’s bringing our community together after COVID. It’s a chance to get out, and see each other, and be able to look each other in the eye, get beyond the social media and keyboards.”
Supporters are welcome to contribute online by texting txchili to 243725.
Hayden Baker, a Katy High School graduate and country singer, will also be performing at the cook-off.
“You’ll want to catch him before he goes big time,” Lacy said. He’s such a great young man. I love him like one of my own kids.”
Some livestock will also make an appearance Friday, namely, a goat.
“We couldn’t get a pig due to COVID,” Lacy said.
American Furniture Warehouse is the event sponsor. Independent Bank Mortgage, the Katy Independent School District, and State Farm Insurance are presenting partners along with the chamber.
Tasting and enjoying the different chili dishes is on a donation basis. Cash and credits cards are accepted. For more information, visit https://tinyurl.com/yxur9pva.