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Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Chili For All Tastes At Crime Stoppers of Niagara Cookoff

Chef Alexander Davidoff and Assistant Manager Scott Street (St. Catharines) Sobeys, Lynn Russell-Walbourne accept the award for Best Overall Chili. 

A bunch of us cooks, chefs or whatever you may want to call us got together to let individuals and judges taste our chilies. The reason we were there was simple: it was the inaugural chili cookoff for Crime Stoppers of Niagara. Heck, most of us know who they are, and we hope that we won't need them, but when the world around us simply acts like it is, we sure as hell are glad they are out there.

For this event it was all about food, in particular it was about chili. I am a cook, and yes in official terms I can be called a chef, but in the end it is the cooking, the preparing of food that is more important than a title. Food is the engine that keeps all of us going. Sure, some of it we simply throw in our mouths because we need to, but some of it we take the time and slowly savour for its glorious taste.

As a cook of over two decades I have no illusion as to the immense value of taste, fragrance and even appearance of what is on a plate. Sometimes we cooks like to get together and show off a little, asking judges and just regular folks to provide their opinions on how good we are. OK, a little ego slipped in there. This time we had a very good reason to get together; it was a fundraising event and a way to give back to our community. 

Crime Stoppers Niagara is a non-profit organisation operating with a civilian community Board of Directors. It was formed in 1985 as a citizen, media and police co-operative program to help safeguard our streets and our lives. This organisation does not receive any government funding, instead relying on funds raised through its annual October fundraising gala, and now the Chili Cookoff!

The invitation went out to cooks to present their chili's in support of this fundraising event. As a cook, as a chef, hot off a win from the Community Care 9th Annual Chili Cookoff (sorry, my ego had to brag a little there), I could not resist. Board Chair Ernie Sibbett was someone I had known before the event and his organisation was one that could not be ignored for its incredible value to our community. I brought my rather unusual chili and had the honour of winning the judges' overall vote as best chili. Who said we cooks don't have an ego anyway?

Levity and fun aside, Ernie Sibbett and Michael White, Executive Director, Crime Stoppers of Niagara, operate an organisation with both staff and volunteers that is an absolute necessity in our community. I thank my team for their support; Julia Clairmont, now of the Sobeys Fonthill store, and my son Nikolas. I was proud to have participated in this event and look forward to the second Niagara Crime Stoppers Chili Cookoff in 2016.

Best Overall Chili: Alexander Davidoff, Team Sobeys (top left).
Best Spicy Chili: Canuck's Ale House (top right).
Best Vegetarian Chili: M. Izzo/Niagara Regional Police (bottom left).
Best Regular Chili: Puddy's Bar & Grill (bottom right).

Quiet Heat Chili

2 lb lean ground meat – beef
1 lb hot Italian sausage meat, pulled from casing
1 large sweet onion, chopped/minced
220g mushroom, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
1 15oz can tomato puree
1 large can diced tomato
3/4 cup ground chili powder
1 tbsp cumin ground
1 tbsp paprika
1 tbsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp coriander
1 cup red wine
1 cup dark Haagen Dazs chocolate gelato

Chop the onion, garlic and jalapeno pepper
(pull seeds and membrane from the jalapeno pepper first).
Put half chopped onion and garlic into blender. Blend till smooth, empty into skillet.
Place remaining half of chopped onion and jalapeno pepper into blender,
blend till smooth and empty into skillet.
Chop the mushrooms and bell pepper add to minced garlic, onion and jalapeno pepper, and cook on high for approximately 5-7 minutes. Empty into pot.
Place ground beef and hot Italian sausage meat into saucepan on high, keep breaking up and cook till all pink colour has gone from meat. Add to pot.
Add all spices and diced tomato with tomato puree. Mix well.
Now add red wine. Mix well and allow to simmer on medium heat for 45 minutes.
Add the dark chocolate ice cream and mix well, simmer for another 15 minutes to cook through the ice cream and serve.
The key here is the dark chocolate's properties which help calm down the heat levels leaving the full bouquet of the spices.