October 1st , 2012 8:58 am Leave a comment

Chef’s Corner: Cooking competition seeking contestants with creative recipes for chili, apple dishes


Two upcoming cooking competitions will let people put their culinary talents in the spotlight for a chance at prizes and recognition.

Photo by Metro Creative Connection
Talented area cooks are being invited to step up to the challenge of preparing pies, cakes and much more for the Unicoi County Apple Festival Cooking Contest.

Apples are the starring ingredients for one of the contests while the other competition will pit area chili connoisseurs against each other in a four-hour period to cook up a prize-winning pot of chili.

The Unicoi County Apple Festival Cooking Contest has for many years been a time-tested way to kick off the annual Apple Festival in downtown Erwin. So grab your aprons, dust off your recipe files and start baking apple pies, cakes or some other award-winning apple dish.

Bring your favorite dish Friday, Oct. 5, to the Unicoi County Chamber of Commerce office in downtown Erwin. Entries will be received between 9 and 10 a.m., with the closed judging to begin at 10 a.m.

Categories for the apple contest include apple cakes, apple pies and any other apple dish. Only one entry per person per category will be accepted. The entries for the contest must include at least one cup of apples, applesauce or dried apples. A copy of the recipe must be included with the entry to qualify for judging.

Prizes in each of the three categories will be $50 for first place, $30 for second place and $20 for third place. All winners will receive an official Unicoi County Apple Festival rosette.

Sponsors for the 2012 Apple Cooking Contest include the Unicoi County Chamber of Commerce and the University of Tennessee Unicoi County Extension Service.

For more information about the Apple Festival Cooking Contest, call the Extension Office at 743-9584.

Roan Mountain State Park will hold its yearly Chili Cookoff Saturday, Oct. 6.

Starting at 8 a.m., contestants in this contest will get the chance to prove their chili amounts to more than just beans.

Park Ranger Jacob Young said the contest is held at Picnic Shed No. 3 at the Roan Mountain State Park Campground.

“I like this contest when the weather starts getting a little cooler,” Young said, but he noted that some years the contest has been held during unseasonably warm weather while other years temperatures on Roan Mountain have dropped below freezing.

Young said the contest has very few rules. Basically, contestants must prepare a gallon of chili on site. Meat for the chili can be pre-cooked, but all other ingredients must go into the pot during the contest hours from 8 a.m. to noon. Young said each contestant must also think of a name for their chili.

There’s no cost to enter the contest, and people are free to compete or just visit to watch the preparation process and possibly sample the results at the end of the competition.

Young recommended that contestants bring gas-powered stoves for cooking their chili, although a limited number of electric hook-ups are available at the campground shelter.

Prizes will be awarded in three categories: Hottest Chili, Best Tasting Chili and Ambience. The last category judges chili-cooking campsites on their creative decor. One winner will be announced for “Hottest Chili” and “Ambience.” In the “Best Tasting” category, however, awards for first, second and third place will be given.

Young said the park offers a variety of gift certificate as prizes.

The Chili Cookoff entries will be judged at noon. Soon after judging is completed, the public is welcome to sample the pots of chili while supplies last.

For more information or to register to enter the contest, call the Roan Mountain State Park Office at 772-0190.


If you need some inspiration, here’s a chili recipe that won me a prize several years ago in the Ramp Cooking Contest at the Flag Pond Ruritan Club Ramp Festival held every spring in Unicoi County. Since ramps are not available this time of year, just substitute some extra onions.

White-bean Chili 

With Chicken & Ramps 

1 19-oz. can of White Kidney Beans, also known as Cannellini Beans

3 15.5-oz. cans of Great Northern Beans

1 14.5-oz. can of stewed tomatoes

2 tablespoons of butter or bacon drippings

1 medium onion

1 large chicken breast

10-12 small ramps or 6-8 large ramps, washed and trimmed

1 teaspoon of cumin powder

1 teaspoon of cayenne pepper or chili powder

1-2 slices of bacon

Salt and white pepper (optional, to taste)

1. Combine beans and stewed tomatoes in a slow cooker or large kettle. Simmer.

2. Chop chicken and onion, and brown with butter or bacon drippings in a skillet over medium-high heat.

3. Chop ramps coarsely. Add to onion and chicken, and continue browning.

4. Add chicken, onions and ramps to bean mixture and stir in. Continue to simmer.

5. Fry bacon. Drain, pat dry on paper towels, then crumble and add to pot. Continue to simmer.

6. Stir in cumin and cayenne pepper or chili powder. Add salt and pepper to taste. Simmer for at least an hour.

Optional: Garnish with 1 raw, washed and trimmed ramp (with leaves), or snippets of green onion.

Yield: 6-8 servings.

If you need some apple inspiration, here’s a recipe taken from the cookbook, “An Apple A Day: 365 Apple-tizing Recipes.” This recipe won Judy Moss a first-place award in the contest back in 1988. Through the years, Judy has been one of the winningest contestants in the history of the competition.


Stack Cake 

1 cup firmly packed brown sugar

1 cup molasses

2 eggs, beaten

1 teaspoon ground ginger

5-1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup vegetable shortening

1 cup buttermilk

1 teaspoon baking soda

Dash of salt

Judy’s Apple Butter (recipe follows)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine sugar, shortening and molasses; beat until smooth. Add buttermilk, eggs, baking soda, ginger and salt; mix well. Add flour, 1 cup at a time. Divide dough into 8-10 portions; place each on a greased cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 5-7 minutes.

Stack layers with apple butter, spreading on each layer.

Judy’s Apple Butter 

4 cans applesauce

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon cloves

Mix ingredients together, and cook on low for 4 hours.

Enjoy and, should you enter these contests, good luck!


This week’s column was written by Bryan Stevens, assistant editor of the Elizabethton STAR.


To submit your own recipes or suggest a person for “Chef’s Corner,” email lifestyles@starhq.com or call 297-9077.


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