Inaugural Chili Cook-Off offers a taste of success

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Winners of most awards from St. Sophia Greek Orthodox Church are (l-r) Vicki Michalakos, Eleni Monas, Nick Elthimiou, Evangelos Marsellos, Claudia Callesis and Sheila Callesis.

Local tastebuds were stimulated by a wide variety of wonderfully spicy and tantalizing types of chili during the inaugural Coral Gables Chili Cook-Off on Feb. 21. 

The event drew a large crowd of people who used the opportunity to relax and unwind in a family atmosphere at Fred B. Harnett Ponce Circle Park. 

The Chili Cook-Off, organized by the Rotary Club of Coral Gables, was sponsored by Coral Gables Hospital, Mercedes-Benz of Coral Gables and others including Miami’s Community Newspapers. 

The three judges, who came hungry for the chili, were Coral Gables Commissioner Jeannett Slesnick, University of Miami athletic director Blake James and Miami-Dade County School Board member Raquel Regalado.

The chili at the Cook-Off featured many different types.

First Presbyterian Church featured a lively variety according to its host Rolando Martinez.

“It definitely has a kick to it. It’s made up of three different types of meat and seven different types of pepper. Plus, it’s got a little Jack Daniels,” Martinez said.

St. Sophia’s Greek Orthodox Church took the most prizes for its chili. The team took second place in the category of Best Overall. They also won Best House of Worship and Best Vegetarian.

The host there, Vicky Michalakos, emphasized that it “was definitely not your mother’s chili.” She brought the recipe from a Southwestern source and served it with a little piece of her homemade cornbread. And it wasn’t; it was nose-watering.

Coral Gables Hospital took first place overall, but the People’s Choice Award went to the University of Florida group, Work Em Chili Gators.

There also was plenty of musical entertainment provided by local Von Henry who sings at Saint John’s by the Lake. She had a band, called Funk Pedal, that kept the event’s attendees moving and mellow.

“I have been singing since the choir at the church when I was a child,” she said.

Plus, after her set concluded, another local band took over. Leaning more to the indie beach rock genre, Stiltsville played until the event ended. 

The event lived up to its tagline, “Just chilin’.”

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