NEW BUFFALO — The 15th Chili Cook-off, held Sunday, Oct. 10, at Skip’s Restaurant and Catering in New Buffalo, brought out both heat and flavor on the balmy final day of the European Farmers Market.
People’s Choice Award-winners Chris Hebron of Hebron Farms and Marcial Kajer from Kajer’s Greens are regular vendors at the market, the source of all the ingredients in their “Farmer’s Chili” (including grated cheese from the J2K booth).
“We’re just two farmers trying to make the best chili ever,” Hebron said, adding that ingredients employed towards that goal included four types of pork sausage, tomatoes, honey, butternut squash, micro-greens, tripling onions, and watermelon radishes for a colorful garnish.
Mary Conlin had two Chili Cook-off teams to pull for – the Berrien County Sheriff’s Department (which included her daughter, and the New Buffalo Township Fired Department’s entry, which her son helped make.
“If the fire department gets a call, and they haven’t had dinner, Skip’s cooks it up, sends it to them right on scene,” she said.
Winning the Judges First Place award was the Berrien County Sheriff’s Department, represented by Deputy Kristin Robbins and Sgt. Nick Magro. The team of police officers also placed third in The People’s Choice category (which they won in 2020).
“We went with a nice, even sweet and spicy blend to try and cover all the bases, not overpowering one way or another,” Magro said.
The father-and-daughter Kettring and Company team (Darrel and Eryka Leigh Kettring) were the second-place finishers in the Judge’s Award category.
Darrel said Kettring and Company (known for its Chicago Bears table design) has participated in 14 of the 15 Chili Cook-offs (and according to Rhonda Sobecki of Skip’s always garnering an award) also includes his wife, who made 300 corn muffins for the 2021 Cook-off.
Those judging the tasty chili recipes were: Nora Duffy (a judge for all 15 years), Charles Smith, Deborah Strefling and Michael Sweitlik.
“We figure she’s had at least 150 different chilis,” Sobecki said of Duffy.
First-time competitor, Ed O’Bradovich, representing team Drinko (Deb Wagner, Trinka and himself) took second place in the People’s Choice category.
Returning champions Alyssa Brake and Tyler Mantei from Beer Church Brewing Company clinched a third place spot in The Judges Award division.
Local band Generation Gap (anchored by Mark Smith and sons) provided live music.
Sobecki said the Skip’s European Market, which runs Saturdays and Sundays from Mid May to Mid October, had a great 13th season, averaging between 30 and 35 booths each weekend.
She said the vendors call themselves “the market family.”
“They’re all really good friends. A lot of them have been with me since day one.”