Michelle Yang / Sun Staff Photographer

Chili Fest at Ithaca Commons in 2019

February 7, 2020

Annual Chili Cook Off Will Host Its 22nd Rendition in the Commons

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Ithacans will warm up on a cold winter day with hot chili and heated competition once more for the City’s annual Chili cook off.

The annual event, hosted by the Ithaca Downtown Alliance, will feature multiple categories, as well as beer contests, beard contests and a farmers market. The event takes place at 11:30 a.m. on Saturday in the Downtown Ithaca Commons area.

Some categories include Best Meat/Overall Chili, Best Vegetarian/Vegan Chili, Best Presentation and the People’s Choice, which, as per its name, is voted on by contest attendees. The other events are voted on by a group of judges who range from local celebrities to “rockstar” volunteers, according to Ithaca Downtown Alliance special events director Scott Rougeau.

Ithaca Beer Company and Cornell restaurant McCormick’s at Moakley house will return to defend their titles in the People’s Choice category and Best Meat/Overall Chili, respectively.

Other contestants include Cayuga Medical Center, AGAVA Restaurant, Taverna Banfi at Statler Hotel, Coltivare and a joint Collegetown Bagels and Ithaca Bakery team. In total, over 30 restaurants will be represented — making over 40 chilis — according to the Cook-off’s website.

Despite winning Best Meat Chili and ending up as a runner-up in Best Beverage last year, Ithaca Beer Company said it will not be complacent in this year’s competition. According to General Manager Mike Wilber, a new chef is taking the helm for the team’s chili creation, while a beer selection will be curated to complement the brewery’s chili.

Beyond food and drink, Ithaca Downtown Alliance works alongside the Ithaca Beard and Mustache Club to hold the Chili ’Stache and Beard Competition — a competition where mustaches and various beard types are ranked.  For those without facial hair, there are also categories like Best in Show and the Sans Barbe — fake beard — competition.

To participate in the tasting, tickets are sold at a rate of $10 for ten tastes.

A new addition to this year’s cook off is a raffle, which will feature a variety of prizes. For the cost of one “taste,” chili eaters can win either a gift basket from local stores in Ithaca or an assortment of spices dubbed the “Most Valuable Pepper” package to prepare for next year’s cook-off.

Rougeau said it was the time of year the cook off takes place that makes the event so unique to Ithaca.

“A lot of people hibernate for the winter and this is a great opportunity for people to come out, stretch around, get some fresh air, mingle with their community and try some delicious food,” he said.