It's that time of the year where the competition heats up as hundreds of teams get their spice on at the sixth annual RP Funding Orlando Chili Cook-off.
The cook-off, slated for March 7 at Festival Park, is an annual event for chili lovers and cooks. It will feature music, children's activities and the World Chili Eating Contest. This year, more than 100 teams will attend to win up to $5,500 in cash prizes. With all that chili, event organizers expect 20,000 people to attend the event. Pre-sale tickets are $10, and tickets purchased on the day of the event are $14. Pints of beer will also be going to $5.
Two years ago, Chris Roberts, a 2001 UCF alumnus and owner of the blog Eat Local Orlando, participated with his team, Chili Crafters.
Roberts was the head cook for his team and made 20 gallons of chili, when he was only required to make 7.25 gallons, and spent more than $600 to make it.
He revealed his special recipe for his bacon-beer chili that brought a huge line of hungry people to his tent.
"I made it with Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA, bacon, beef, onions, tomatoes and chili powder," Roberts said.
For future chili cookers looking to partake in the challenge, Roberts advises them to go out into the grounds and invite festival attendees back to their booths.
Although Roberts didn't win any awards in 2013's competition, he was asked to be a judge this year. With his new title, he will have to determine the winner for the Chili Appreciation Society International Contest.
"All chili must be cooked from scratch on site the day of the cook-off. All chili must be prepared in the open (no cooking in motor homes, etc.)," according to the CASI's rules on Orlandochilicookoff.com.
The CASI Contest is broken up into categories where there are three top winners in each of the categories. The categories include the top three CASI winners in the restaurant and vegetables category.
Another contest is the People's Choice Contest, which is determined by votes from the chili-eaters.
While the cook-off is simmering, there's another competition that's even hotter and will make you even more full — the World Chili Eating Contest.
"It will start midday and we have five of the top 10 eaters of the world: Joey Jaws Chestnut, Mikki Sudo — No. 1 female eater — and three other top 10 eaters, along with a few local eaters. We will have eight eaters and may even give an audience member the chance to participate," said Kenneth Roberts, a 1994 UCF alumnus and president for Event for Change Inc., the producer of the RP Funding Orlando Chili Cook-off.
Proceeds from the event will benefit Special Olympics Florida, which provides sports training and competitions in Olympic-type sports for people with intellectual disabilities, according to Specialolympicsflorida.org.
"Over 80 cents of every dollar Special Olympics gets is used toward their programs," Roberts said.
Over the past five years, the event has raised about $175,000 for Special Olympics Florida, placing among its top 10 private donors, according to its site.
Roberts said this is an affordable event that students can enjoy whether they're cooking or eating.
"As a cook, they can meet incredible people, hone their chili-making skills, use it as team building if they are part of a school group organization ... As an attendee, they will have a fantastic time and not break the bank," he said. "But more importantly, know that you can have a great time and do something even better for a desiring cause."
Veronica Brezina is a Senior Staff Writer for the Central Florida Future.