February 18, 2014

Students, Locals Enjoy Ithaca Chili Cook-Off

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Despite snowy conditions, the Commons’ construction and many students away for February break, Ithaca successfully held its sixteenth annual Chili Cook-off Saturday.

The event, which required two blocks of Cayuga street to be blocked off, featured about 20 local vendors that offered samples of their own chili recipes to attendees and competed in a taste test. Flavors included Scorpion Pepper and Chocolate Chipotle.

Thousands of people came through to Saturday’s event. (Noah Rankin / Sun Senior Writer)

A group of individuals sport red chile peppers at the Cook-Off. (Noah Rankin / Sun Senior Writer)

A woman dressed up in all gold makes an appearance at the Cook-Off. (Noah Rankin / Sun Senior Writer)

Since much of the Commons was blocked off due to construction, most tents were set up on Cayuga Street. (Noah Rankin / Sun Senior Writer)

Vendors from Banfi’s give out chili to attendants. (Noah Rankin / Sun Senior Writer)

People enjoy warm chili despite the cold weather. (Noah Rankin / Sun Senior Writer)

“Last year, I was a huge fan of Just a Taste’s beef brisket chili,” Justin Rosch grad said. “My favorite one this year is probably the Banfi’s one called Hellfire. It wasn’t actually that spicy, and it just had a really good taste to it.”

According to Rosch, who had been to the Cook-Off once before, Saturday’s snowy weather did not discourage him nor his friends from coming by.

“I actually think [the weather] is kind of nice. It was colder last year, and it was just really tough,” Rosch said. “This year it’s a little warmer out, and I like the atmosphere with the snow. I think it’s nice walking around and getting to talk to the local vendors and eat their chili. That’s the most fun part.”

Christina Alario ’09, manager of the Taverna Banfi restaurant in the Statler Hotel, who helped organize the Cook-Off, said the event lends itself well to supporting local products.

“It’s always a goal to use local products, even in our restaurant,” Alario said. “From the snow storm that just happened, we couldn’t get a lot of external products in, so we’ve been really lucky to use more local products.”

Many vendors also offered vegetarian chili options.

“I’d say most people in Ithaca are smart to have a vegetarian option, if not a vegan option,” Alario said. “[Banfi’s] does have a vegan option, and a lot of people just know to bring both. It’s just smart.”

Besides chili, vendors distributed various types of desserts, beer and wine. Volunteers from the Ithaca Community Harvest were also in attendance, selling cornbread to raise money for a local elementary school.

According to Jerry Dietz, one of the volunteers, the Harvest was raising money to give elementary students a fruit and snack during their school days.

“The money goes to a program at Beverly J. Martin Elementary School called the fresh fruit and vegetable snack program,” Dietz said. “We decided to help them, made ten trays of cornbread, sold it all in no time, and gave them a thousand dollars … this year we made 43 trays.”

In regard to turnout to the cook-off, which for the first time ever was held during a Cornell break, Alario said that she was pleasantly surprised by the number of attendees, which numbered in the thousands.

“[Turnout] is actually bigger than I expected because of the February Break, but it’s fairly comparable to last year,” Alario said. “We’re very happy about it.”