Jemison FFA Alumni host Chili cookoff, auction

Published 7:42 pm Monday, February 2, 2015

Jemison High FFA director Clay Mims (center) helps Ginger Smith (right) and Tyler Edwards pour a bowl of chili at the cookoff.

Jemison High FFA director Clay Mims (center) helps Ginger Smith (right) and Tyler Edwards pour a bowl of chili at the cookoff.

The Jemison High School FFA Alumni hosted its inaugural Chili Dinner and Cookoff on Jan. 31. 

The event, which served to raise money for the school’s FFA chapter, provided chili and crackers for those in attendance.

“We had a good turnout,” event coordinator Rachel Sosa said. “We’ve gotten a lot of great bids on our silent auction items, so we’re excited.”

While exact attendance figures were unavailable, Sosa said the alumni group was happy with the amount of people that came to the event.

“We’ve definitely had a lot of exposure,” she said. “The biggest thing people have been looking for is the hot (spicy) chili. The winning chili pot was cooked in a cast iron pot.”

Tickets for the event were $7 and featured an all-you-can-eat chili and crackers dinner, as well as desserts such as cookies and fried pies.

In the open chili cooking competition, Jemison native Tucker Hilyer took home first place, followed by Brett Roberts and Carol Thompson.

Hilyer, a 13-year-old student at Jemison Intermediate, said he was thrilled with the win.

“It’s huge,” he said. “My father was the first to come up with the recipe. Then it was me that added the special ingredients. I love taking home first place. It honors him more than it honors me.”

Hilyer said he chose to cook his chili in a cast iron pot, rather than a crock pot, because he felt the cast iron pot provided a more centralized heat source.

“I used a cast iron skillet and a cast iron pot,” he said. “The way (a cast iron pot) heats, it holds heat better than a crock pot. A crock pot constantly throws heat in, but it just goes out.”

Hilyer also said he felt the way he prepares the meat used in his chili helped him win.

“Whenever you make the meat, you have to throw in onions,” he said. “That way, you achieve a sweet and savory flavor that is hard to achieve in most foods.”

While not fully diverging his recipe, Hilyer said he felt the freshest ingredients were essential in a good chili bowl.

“We add kosher salt,” he said. “It’s human nature that people love salt; we have a craving for salt. And we get our fresh ground meat. We own a cattle farm, which we (get) home-raised meat from.”

Sosa said the judges —Joe Mims, Betty Giles and Mildred Ellison— all had ties to Jemison High School, as former teachers and staff members. Also in attendance were Chilton County Board of Education superintendent Tommy Glasscock as well as consultant Dr. Walt Fenn.

“We’d like to thank our judges,” she said. “All were either teachers, or principals or faculty of Jemison High School.”

In addition to the cookoff and dinner, the event feature a silent auction, which saw items donated from Barry’s Furniture, Kay’s Catering and David’s Taxidermy, among others.

“Everything’s been donated, so we haven’t been out any money,” she said. “Maybe in supplies, $100. Everything’s going to the scholarship (fund).”

Sosa said the event raised more than $2,300, which was more than double the year-end goal of $1,000.

All proceeds will go to providing scholarships as well as assisting the student chapter attend competitions and helping with other items the group may need, JHS FFA director Clay Mims said.

“It provides more opportunities for Jemison FFA,” Mims said. “FFA officers have these official jackets, it helps fund those. It (also) lets them see different agricultural branches.”

Sosa said the FFA Alumni had another event planned for the spring.

“We’re going to do a classic car and antique tractor show in April,” she said. “We’re working on a date. We’re not sure yet if it’ll be at city hall or the school.