Chefs crank up the heat at chili cook-off

— Created November 30, 2022 by Melanie Hammons

By Melanie Hammons

Most of us have finished stuffing ourselves with holiday turkey and assorted leftovers, so it’s only natural our taste buds might have a hankering for oh, say, chili.

The Coupeville Parent-Teacher Association has joined forces with the school’s Farm-to-School program for a Chili Cook-off Saturday from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. at the Coupeville Elementary School’s multi-purpose room. A suggested $5 donation will give tasters way more than just a satisfying meal – proceeds and donations from the event will be divided between the PTA and the Farm-to-School program, which aims to “support learning, inspire creativity and promote the health of students,” according to its website.

President of the Coupeville PTA, Shelley Jackson, said this was the first time the two organizations have joined forces to host the event. She praised the aims of the Farm-to-School curriculum and the hands-on learning it offers to young students.

Jackson said one of the major features of the program she’s come to appreciate is how it exposes children to meals and ingredients they might not see at home on their dining room table.

“Students take home what they’ve learned that day, or that week,” she said. “That knowledge impacts their family members, parents and siblings, in a positive way.”

Zvi Bar-Chaim, coordinator for the farm-to-school program, echoes those sentiments.

“Children learn about the full range of how our food gets to the dining room table,” said Bar-Chaim. “So that encompasses all the agricultural phases of crop production to food prep and cooking lessons. They have hands-on experience working in the school garden. They learn about nutrition so that they can look forward to being informed consumers as adults. These lessons take place during school hours.”

Bar-Chaim has served as the program’s coordinator since 2015. He says the rewards for him in those years have been many.

“It’s been nice to see kids become aware of food choices. I’ve observed how their lunchroom selections evolve to include vegetables and salad bar offerings, once they’re made aware of the nutritional pay-off. And significantly, we believe the program can help launch future careers in farming, other areas of agriculture, and in the culinary arts,” he said.

“One of the main points we emphasize in the curriculum is the importance of knowing where our food comes from,” Bar-Chaim continued. “And this year’s chili cook-off promises to emphasize that, since contestants receive extra bonus points for highlighting a locally sourced ingredient in their chili. It might be meat, such as beef from cattle raised here. Or it could be beans, garlic, onions, etc. that are harvested from someone’s backyard garden.”

No RSVP is needed to attend the cook-off and diners will be the judges for determining the best-tasting chili at the event.

“It’s a ‘people’s choice’ type of judging system,” said Bar-Chaim. “First-, second-, and third-place winning entries will be awarded trophies of recognition. This is a family event, a community-supported outreach. We are encouraging parents to ‘come with your kids.’”

As for what constitutes a great chili recipe, Jackson said individual tastes vary.

“Some people like it really hot. Others may prefer vegetarian over meat-based or vice versa,” she said. “But we all felt that emphasizing the locally-sourced ingredient concept was a great feature to highlight.”

If folks needed an extra reason to be out and about in Coupeville this Saturday, there’s the annual “Greening of Coupeville” that takes place later that day.

“We’re hoping lots of people will choose to come to the Chili Cook-off for a warm, tasty bowl of chili, and then head on out for the Greening of Coupeville parade afterwards,” said Bar-Chaim.

The Chili Cook-Off takes place Saturday from 1:30 to 3:30 at the Coupeville Elementary School Multi-Purpose Room, located at 6 Main Street. There is a suggested donation of $5. For more information about the event or the Farm-to-School program, see the website at For additional information about Coupeville PTA, the email address is Coupeville PTA also maintains a Facebook page.