The cook-off saw a wide range of chili connoisseurs in attendance, and with them a diverse sampling from the world of chili. From time-honored family recipes to experimental stews dreamed up on the fly, everyone in attendance had a chance to sample the spectrum of unique chilies.
“I don’t measure anything, I just put things in until it tastes good,” said Ray Whitehead, who took home first prize at the contest along with his son, Matt. The “Whitehead Chuckwagon” had three different chilies available for tasting and Ray, a 40-year veteran in the chili trenches, came out on top, winning a two-night stay at the cabins on Roan Mountain.
The judges, all park employees, closely scrutinized the offerings from each contestant, individually ranking them on a scale from “no way” all the way through “purty good” to “that’s good stuff.”
There were plenty of chilies to choose from, as well, ranging from Unicoi’s Heather Mann, who used venison in an otherwise traditional-style chili, all the way to Bristol, Va., native Dick Fleming’s white chili, which featured turkey, potatoes and enough of a kick to hold its own among the stiff competition.