Chilli cook-off spices up Sunday afternoon

GENOA – The event started as a good-natured challenge between friends Brent Bacon and Sherry Bernedetto, both of Genoa.

“Brent said his chili was better than mine, and I said, ‘I don’t think so!’” Bernedetto, a member of Genoa Post 337 American Legion Riders, said of Bacon’s challenge.

During warmer weather, the group of motorcycle riders participates in parades and other community events, such as “welcome home” motorcades for members of the armed forces who are returning to their homes in DeKalb County.

During the winter months, however, the organization focuses its charitable efforts on fundraising for several local charities. Having a chili cook-off seemed like a natural activity for the group.

Five members of the Legion Riders brought their homemade chili to the cook-off at the Genoa Veterans Home on Sunday. Club members and members of the public paid $1 for a sample of all five chilis and voted for their favorites by purchasing additional bowls and leaving tips in the chef’s tip jar. All proceeds were given to charity.

The chilis varied from mild to hot with a variety of distinct flavors.

“There is about 1/3 of a cup of baking cocoa in here. That’s why it has the darker color,” explained Denise Avesing of Genoa, wife of Legion Rider Ted Avesing. “I watch a lot of cooking shows and they said that chilis go well with cocoa powder.”

Don Brown said that most people asked questions about the recipes before purchasing a bowl.

“Generally people will ask what the chili is like because there is a thousand ways to make chili and some people don’t want to set their mouths on fire,” said Brown, who offered a small square of buttered corn bread with each bowl of chili.

The group chose last Sunday to host the event because of the larger-than-usual crowd that gathered at the veterans home to watch the Chicago Bears/ Green Bay Packers football game. Bacon hopes to build on the event’s success next year when the rival teams meet again.

“For our first year of doing this I would consider this a success,” Bacon said. “We will make this an annual event.”