United Way Chili Cook-Off returns for 25th year

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There were 32 contestants competing in this year’s chili cook-off, including three vegetarian chili options. All of the previous winners returned to compete this year, she said. The judges are a mix of food industry professionals and community members, and there is a People’s Choice award so everyone attending can have their opinion heard.

Minnesota Power took first place in the amateur division and won the People’s Choice award on Thursday. Whole Foods Co-op won the Spicy Spirit award. Valentini’s and Lutheran Social Services partnered up and won the professional division, along with the Most Unique award for “saltimbocca” chili. Fitger’s Brewhouse won the vegetarian division. Little Angie’s Cantina and Grill won the Hottest But Edible award.

The chili cook-off is a kick-off for the United Way’s financial campaign and proceeds from Thursday’s event stay local through the Head of the Lakes United Way, she explained. The chili event includes an expo for the agencies that benefit from United Way.

A lot of volunteer work goes into the chili cook-off, she said.

“We have a whole range of people that this is something that they do because sometimes people can’t give a lot of money, but they can give their time and talents and they can advocate for us year-round by sending us volunteers or by coming to events like this, so it’s really important,” she said.