High schools from across the Lower Mainland sent their best culinary students to Cloverdale on Thursday to go head-to-head in the annual student chili cook-off.
Around 25 teams from Surrey, Maple Ridge, Powell River and Abbotsford set up cooking stations on folding tables in the Alice McKay building at the Cloverdale Fairgrounds, and got to work slicing, dicing and decorating.
The cook-off isn’t just about a chili’s degree of deliciousness. Before the tasting begins, entries are judged in six categories: organization, cleanliness, use of tools and equipment, knowledge of ingredients, timeliness and theme.
Teams are encouraged to dress up, decorate their table and present their final product with a certain panache.
Longtime cook-off judge Laurae McNally looks forward to the event every year. “It’s really fun,” she said.
“I always say to them, where’d you get the recipe from?” she said, explaining that it’s usually a toss up between a long-held family recipe and the result of a quick internet search.
Her favourite follow-up questions are to ask if they’ve tried the recipe on anybody, and “are they still alive?”
Lord Tweedsmuir Secondary’s culinary arts program hosts the cook-off each year, under the direction of chef John Buist. The school invites competitors from neighbouring cities to compete, and this year the contest saw entries from Surrey, Maple Ridge, Powell River and Abbotsford. Lord Tweedsmuir Secondary, L.A. Matheson Secondary, Enver Creek Secondary, Tamanawis Secondary, Semiahmoo Secondary, Maple Ridge Secondary, Frank Hurt Secondary, Abbotsford Senior Secondary and Brooks Secondary all entered chilies in the annual invitational cook-off.
At the end of the day, there was a clear winner. The “Totems” team from Semiahmoo Secondary won best presentation, best kitchen management, best meat chili and the ultimate chili cook-off award: best overall.
Maple Ridge Secondary may have arrived late, but judges allowed them a full two hours to prepare their entry and they didn’t disappoint. Although they had a late start, the “Crazy Carnival Chili” team ended up taking home second place for presentation.
Tamanawis Secondary’s “Edgy Veggies” won best team spirit, and the school’s “Not so Chili” team took home first in the seafood chili category. The host teams from Lord Tweedsmuir Secondary also had a great run — “Ha(i)ley2” won best sportsmanship, and “Team Rocket” took home best theme and the gold for best poultry chili.