Camping meets haute cuisine at high school chili cook-off

Team Winterfriends of Lord Tweedsmuir Secondary: Ashley Bucholtz, left, Kelly Kooner, Melanie Lachance, and Kerri Kooner at their school’s 13th annual chili cook-off.   - Jennifer Lang / Cloverdale Reporter
Team Winterfriends of Lord Tweedsmuir Secondary: Ashley Bucholtz, left, Kelly Kooner, Melanie Lachance, and Kerri Kooner at their school’s 13th annual chili cook-off.
— image credit: Jennifer Lang / Cloverdale Reporter

The aptly-named Team Winterfriends donned toques and parkas in their quest to make the perfect bowl of chili at last week’s high school chili cook-off.

About 30 teams from Surrey, Coquitlam, Vancouver and as far away as Merritt, B.C., took part in the 15th annual event, hosted by Lord Tweedsmuir Secondary at the Cloverdale Fairgrounds.

Team Winterfriends – comprised of Ashley Bucholtz, Kelly Kooner, Melanie Lachance and Kerri Kooner – chose a winter-inspired recipe that called for chocolate as one of the ingredients, and wore ensembles more suited to the ski slopes than the Stetson Bowl.

They were one of five teams fielded by Lord Tweedsmuir at the May 9 event, where teams started cooking at 8:30 a.m., with everything cooked and plated for the judges by 10:45 a.m.

Many entrants chose to use costumes and table decor to help sway the judges.

The tables set by the two teams from Merritt Secondary were impressively decorated with hay bales, saddles, chaps, a wagon wheel and a cattle skull, setting the mood perfectly for the upcoming Cloverdale Rodeo. Wranglers, AKA Brittney Lygo and Hailey Scott of Semiahmoo Secondary were readying an all in one chili – “The Best in the West” – prepared on a hot plate and featuring cornbread baked on top, while the guys from Tamanawis donned grass skirts and coconut bikini tops in keeping with their Hawaiian-style chili n’ pineapple slices.

“It’s chili – everybody’s mother and everybody’s grandmother has a recipe, so it’s not daunting,” said John Buist, teacher and chef at Lord Tweedsmuir Secondary, one of the judges.

“Chili is something that they all have in common. Something they can come together and make.”

[Dallas Jurriet, Zack Krenn, and Elijah Mack of Merritt Secondary School, left.]

Chili is also something that can be prepared without much in the way of kitchen gadgets: the teams work on hot plates set up on folding tables packed inside the coverall building at the Rodeo Fairgrounds.

“It’s camping meets haute cuisine,” he said.

The overall winner was the team from Semiahmoo Secondary in South Surrey with their "Totem Chili", an entry that came with homemade bannok bread.The team also claimed the title for best meat chili as well. Lord Tweedsmuir Secondary's Luau Chilitas won first place in the most original chili category. Team members wore grass skirts and served coconut drinks to go with their chili.

Team Winterfriends helped wash up a lot of dishes, earning Freezies as a reward.

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