The spicy aroma of chili peppers and hot sauce wafted through the air of America's Buffet in the LaFollette Complex Friday as six student teams battled with food for weapons to obtain the title of best chili in the first annual Chili Cook-off, sponsored by Residence Halls Dining Services and Residence Life.
Each team was sponsored by a residence hall or student organization. A $20 entrance fee, as well as donations and other proceeds, went to a charity that each team chose.
The contest was the brainchild of Allen White, sous-chef for Noyer.
"I came up with the idea and proposed it to my fellow co-workers," White said.
White and his co-workers put together a plan and a committee. The cook-off was open to students living in the residence halls who had a meal plan, said White.
"I wanted to give back to the students and have some fun," White said. "We (Dining Services) are not just here to take students' money. And we want them to know you don't have to leave campus to have a good time."
After preparing chili from 3-6 p.m., each team was appraised by a panel of eight judges.
The judges were invited to participate by the planning committee and involved those from various departments and organizations, such as the Career Center and the Residence and Housing Association.
Standards for judging were based mainly on each judge's tastes.
"I like chili to have a certain thickness," said Jeannine Harold, director of the Career Center and a member of the panel of judges. "I also like a lot of temperature in chili."
"It's a lot of fun watching the students prepare their recipes and see them cooking," said Cindy Malm, coordinator of communications for Housing and Residence Life and a member of the planning committee. "It was a real fun time," she said.
Onlookers and passersby who knew random chili-related trivia, such as while filming in Rome, Elizabeth Taylor demanded that chili be brought to her, won prizes during the cook-off.
The winners of the grand prize received a $20 gift certificate to use at any dining location on campus, a bag of tortilla chips with chili sauce, a T-shirt, and a candlelight gourmet dinner prepared by White.
In the end, the Student Action Team Chili Master, whose charity was Koins for Kids, was the overall winner. Other winners were the Mr. Bean team, for most creativity, Schmidt's Cumin, for people's choice chili, and the Chili Masters for most team spirit.
"We (SAT) always try to do a fund-raiser every year and chose to do this," said sophomore Stephanie Vidmar, co-captain of the Student Action Team and a member of Chili Masters.
"It was a really interesting experience," she said. "Especially because we don't get home-cooked food down here."