Chili festival 2007

Quarterdeck crew
The old Quarterdeck crew reunited and worked the kitchen, serving burgers, hot dogs, and fries. They all volunteered their time to the Red Stocking Fund. Photos by Ralph Stewart

By Eleni Collins - February 1, 2007

Chili professionals and amateurs stood behind their pots this past Saturday at the Portuguese American Club (PA), hoping to impress the taste buds of more than 1,100 attendees and prove that their slop was tops. Enthusiasts, some of them adorned with chili pepper tattoos, sampled the bubbling offerings from 24 vendors.

First-timers this year included The British Beer Company of Cedarville, who entered after hearing about the contest through WMVY, which sponsored the event. Will they be back next year? "Absolutely," says general manager Beth Roberts. "We went in there blind, not knowing how huge it was. Everyone told me it was fun, but it was way more fun than I ever would have thought, even with all the work."

Kate Shanor, Tara Jennings, and Caroline Derrig.
The PA Club bartenders donated their hourly wages for the day to the Red Stocking Fund. Here, from left, are Kate Shanor, Tara Jennings, and Caroline Derrig.

Aside from the many Vineyard and Cape entrants were John Lavalette and the entourage of Dr. Jack's Love Chili. Having come all the way from Glastonbury, Conn., they won the award for the most traveled. His crew dressed in hospital scrubs decorated with "Dr. Love" insignia and was giving away very popular chili pepper temporary tattoos. It was no wonder they won best presentation.

Ken Garde of Vineyard Haven volunteered to represent the PA Club with a chili recipe that he's developed over the years. Mr. Garde owned The Spaghetti Pot in 1978 to 1985, where Louis' Tisbury Eatery is now, and is a veteran Big Chili contestant. "I was in the first two contests, 20 years ago, but I hadn't entered since then," he said.

Mariachi band
The Mariachi band dressed for the occasion and entertained in the big tent all day.

Islanders Jim Pringle and Alan Northcott proudly stood behind their caldron in the big tent, surrounded by inflatable Corona bottles, limes, and parrots. Without an exact recipe, they "just wing it," each year, according to Mr. Pringle. "We finish fourth every year. They only announce the top three, so we figure we always finish fourth."

First place in the professional division went to Chef Robert Dillon, who owns Little Red Smokehouse in Carver. First place in the amateur division was "Like Mom Used to Make," by Maura Long, Katie Kinney, and Jan Collins, of Somerville, Brockton, and Falmouth respectively.

Whether they traveled from far away or as near as Vineyard Haven, chili lovers agreed this year's contest was one of the best.

The crowd kept cheering all day, whether for the bands or the chili.
Dawn Valenti, Celine Segel, and Elizabeth Rothwell
The girls of Martha's Vineyard Online won the "Is it really chili" category with their chili brownies. From left are Dawn Valenti, Celine Segel, and Elizabeth Rothwell.
Jan Collins, Maura Long, and Katie Kinney
From left behind the booth are Jan Collins, Maura Long, and Katie Kinney, serving their "Chili Mom Used to Make," which won first prize for amateurs.
John Lavalette and Mike Spellman
John Lavalette, left, and Mike Spellman of Dr. Jack's Love Chili had perfect outfits for the day.
Phil McAndrews and Glen Caldwell
Phil McAndrews, left, and Glen Caldwell of Offshore Ale won third place in the professional category.
Tara Gannon, Jonathan Mulholland, and Beth Roberts
Apparently Austin Powers works for the British Beer Company in Cedarville. From left, representing the restaurant, are Tara Gannon, Jonathan Mulholland, and General Manager Beth Roberts.
Robert Dillon and Carol Keating
Robert Dillon holds his first-place trophy in the professional division, with Carol Keating. Robert is the owner of Little Red Smokehouse in Carver.
Brian Athearn
Brian Athearn stirs his "Global Warming" chili, which was made with organic pork and venison.