Ludlow Rotary 28th annual Chili Cook-off sees big crowds and flavorful fun

Chili Con Carlos with Julie, Sarah Melida and Carlos Iglesias. Photo by Sharon Huntley.


LUDLOW, Vt. – Now in its 28th year, Ludlow Rotary Club’s annual Chili Cook-off enjoyed a large turn out under their iconic yellow and white striped tent Saturday, Oct. 6 while 22 local restaurants, chefs, and individuals vied for top honors for their gourmet chili entries.

Attendance this year saw approximately 500 chili lovers jostle, sample, appraise, and vote their way around the tent, eventually selecting their favorite chili. They also enjoyed unlimited cider, bread, and vanilla ice cream along the way.

Winner of the coveted People’s Choice Award, and the accompanying $200 cash prize, was Chris Saylor with his “Hot Dam Chili,” which also won Judge’s Choice for “Spiciest.” Saylor’s chili featured tender, flavorful, and fiery smoked brisket in his award-winning recipe.

People’s Choice Second Place winner was “Chili Con Carlos,” which was the People’s Choice Winner in 2016 and 2017. Carlos Iglesias, the chef behind Chili Con Carlos, was celebrating his 20th year at the Chili Cook-off. Surrounded by his family, who were all wearing commemorative t-shirts, he said he was “hoping for the hat-trick.” He and his team took home the $100 cash prize and the second place award.

People’s Choice Third Place prize, along with a $50 cash prize, went to “Mojakka,” by Chris and Felicity Haselton.

Judges’ top prize for “Best in Show” was awarded to first-time entrant Echo Lake Inn for their “Echo Lake Inn Chili.” According to innkeeper and owner Tom Gianola, they usually had a wedding on this day, which kept them from participating in the past. Their winning recipe was the result of a true “collaboration” from many of his staffers including Executive Chef Phil Lewis, Kyle Barnes, Sous Chef Katie Schneider, and himself. Their recipe included top quality beef, a variety of beans, many secret spices, nutmeg, brown sugar, and surprisingly, ice cream.

The Judges’ “Team Spirit” award went to “Chili Palmer” by MOJO Cafe. Serving their chili while wearing oversized lobster claws and flanked by their skeleton mascot were likely contributors behind their win.

This year’s judges were Ludlow Fire Dept. Chief Peter Kolenda (chief chili judge), Jackson Gore General Manager Dennis Barquinero, and Okemo Valley Regional Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Carol Lighthall.

Event organizers handed this year’s “Honorable Mention” award to “Vermont Harvest Chili” by Stemwinder Restaurant.

Glenn Heitsmith, co-chair of the event – along with Suzanne Garvey – was pleased with the turn out and said of the popular event, “We like to think of it as one of the defining events of the fall, a premier event of Columbus Day weekend. Although there are other events happening around town, this one really kicks off Columbus Day Saturday.” Proceeds go into Ludlow Rotary’s general fund, which they give away through scholarships, Mountainside Youth Shelter, and a number of other local charitable causes.

Next year’s Chili Cook-Off will be held Saturday, Oct. 12, 2019.

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