chili cook-off

NMU Hospitality Club to host food challenge Feb. 17


Journal Staff Writer

MARQUETTE — There’s nothing like a bowl of chili to keep you warm on a winter day.

While thousands of spectators prepare to watch sled dog teams race across the central Upper Peninsula next weekend, Northern Michigan University’s Hospitality Club is hosting its Memorial Chili Challenge shortly after teams participating in the U.P. 200 are expected to cross the race’s finish line.

Everyone is welcome to enjoy a hot meal at the Memorial Chili Challenge, which is set to take place from 1 to 3:30 p.m. Feb. 17 at the Jacobetti Complex on NMU’s campus. Admission is $5 for students and children ages 12 and under, and $10 for the general public.

All proceeds go to Room at the Inn, a local organization focused on helping homeless people in the Marquette area. There will be door prizes, with additional chances to win for those who bring nonperishable items.

NMU Hospitality Club President Olivia Johnson said there are currently 22 participants, both professional and amateur.

Those who fall into the professional category are generally tied to a business or a professional chef, while those who fall into the amateur category are home-cooks or students.

Awards will be presented to each category for overall choice, best use of heat and most original. The public will also get to chose their favorite chili from a professional and amateur.

The NMU Hospitality Club — formerly known as Culinary Students of NMU — has been planning chili challenges for around 20 years. The event began as a way to honor chefs and students who have supported the NMU hospitality program throughout the years.

Johnson said when folks come to the event they can expect to be greeted by people sitting at a table in the Jacobetti Complex Commons, the large lobby area.

“If you bring any nonperishable food items you get an extra ticket for our door prizes. So, you get one ticket for just coming and you get another ticket for bringing any nonperishable food items, toiletries, anything that Room at the Inn needs,” Johnson said. “Hats and gloves are always nice, but feminine products and things like that are always needed too.”

There’ll be booths set up for the NMU Hospitality Club, Spread Goodness Day and Room at the Inn where people can learn more information about the organizations.

“There’s going to be music by Double Trouble DJs, they’re going to also be emceeing; there’ll be a few yard games like bean bag toss,” Johnson said. “When you’re ready to start trying the food, you’ll get a comment card. There’s going to be a sheet on a tray and that’s where you get to put all the different kinds of chili and that’s how you’ll know which one is whose.

“When you’re done tasting all your chilis, fill out the comment card and decide what one you want to win for the people’s choice award.”

Johnson said door prizes will be called around 2:30 p.m. and the judges will announce the winners. Door prizes consist of numerous gift cards from restaurants and local businesses, clothing, jewelry and so on.

This year’s judges are chef Eric Juchemich, the manager and butcher for the Gris Gris Specialty Shop — a part of Lagniappe Cajun Creole Eatery; Chris Gale, co-owner of Vango’s Pizza of Marquette; NMU professor and chef Christopher Kibit, who has coordinated, competed in and judged a number of chili competitions in his 42 years in the business; Michelle Kimball, secretary of NMU’s College of Technology and Occupational Sciences, who loves spicy food; and Nathan Mileski, executive chef of NMU’s dining services.

Johnson said after the awards are handed out, there’ll be about an hour left where people can eat, play games and visit before the area is packed up and cleaned.

“We just want people to come have fun and support Room at the Inn,” she said. “Whether or not you’re in the program, hospitality’s all about family. We want it to be very family-friendly and a nice Sunday afternoon, where you gather around and have some really good food from some local chefs.”

For more information or to enter as a competitor, visit the official NMU Hospitality Club Facebook page.

Jaymie Depew can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 206. Her email address is jdepew@miningjournal.net.