SPARKS — The rules have been thrown out the window for the annual Reno-Sparks Chili Cook-Off, which has been deemed a “FREE 4 ALL” in the cook-off competition. Event sponsors and organizers are not using the International Chili Society (ICS) rules, allowing the competitors to bring in their secret family recipes.
Lee Pieiewski, owner of O’SKIS Pub and Grille, said the new rules of cooking and tasting will provide a much better atmosphere and experience this year.
“It’s the people’s choice this year,” he said. “Last year the chili was not allowed to have beans and needed official judges to taste the chili because of ICS rules, but this year cooks can do whatever they want.”
Pieiewski, who will be brewing up his own batch of chili for the competition, said the cook-off will have about 10 different chili recipes for the public to taste before voting for their favorites. Each chili will be given a number, keeping the cook confidential, for people to vote for and the votes will be tallied at 5 p.m. to announce the three cash-prize winners.
“People will have the opportunity to bounce around each merchant’s location to try their chili and then come to our place and sample the rest of them,” Pieiewski said. “Our sponsorship and donation will benefit the Kiwanis Club of Reno.”
Joan Booth, fundraising chair for the Kiwanis Club of Reno, will bring in about 30 vendors for the event offering the public such things as handmade jewelry, homemade lotions, candles, chairs, canopies, folding chairs, fabric, clothing, jams and painted mailboxes.
“Most of these vendors are independent business owners and this is a way to help them increase their income and exposure in the community,” Booth said adding that the Kiwanis Club is providing the tasting “kits” for the public to sample the competition chili. “The proceeds will go to help fund our children’s programs.”
The Kiwanis Club works directly with Vaughn Middle School in providing school uniforms, books, supplies and musical instruments. The club also donates money to Renown Medical Center’s pediatric facility as part of the International Kiwanis Club’s initiative to helping children.
The chili tasting kits will be available for $5 each, which Booth said is a perfect price to motivate the public to attend.
“We are not charging the cooks to enter because it is a fun thing for them and we don’t want to take it out of the realm of everyone’s pocketbook,” she said. “Reno is known for its summer events so people expect to have something going on and they want to get outside while the weather is nice. We are hoping people will come down to see us and help the vendors and cooks and have a good time.”
Cooks and vendors will be in Victorian Square beginning at 10 a.m. to interact with the community and prepare their chili, though Pieiewski said many of the cooks began cooking their chili the day before.
Pieiewski will be entering a New Orleans-inspired recipe in his first chili cooking competition. He said having a smaller event at Victorian Square gives the community a chance to enjoy themselves without having a huge crowd of people around them.
“I have always wanted to do a chili that I could tweak and see if people like it,” he said. “Having an event in the square that is making something happen besides having a huge event, and having a small, local event that doesn’t have rules and regulations is great.”
Pieiewski said to be on the lookout for Carson City restaurant owner Bob White and his Hillbilly Chili today. White, as many of the other competitors, will be using unique ingredients and flavors to spice up his recipe.
The event will run from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and will be in conjunction with the Arts in Bloom Festival. Merchants such as last year’s winner Paddy and Irene’s Irish Pub, Great Basin Brewing Company and others will be competing in the chili cook-off for $150, $100 and $50 cash prizes.