A handful of Flagler County residents participated in an International Chili Society's cook-off, which was held in Palm Coast for the second time.
Palm Coast resident Larry Weltikol stood under a red tent while keeping an eye on his homestyle chili simmering in a pot. He was one of 27 International Chili Society competitors who turned up the heat on the sunny summer afternoon of Saturday, Aug. 4, for the ICS’s 2018 International World Qualifier.
“I enjoy it because of the comradery and to meet all the nice people,” said Weltikol, who competed in 17 cook-offs last year and 11 this year, so far. “I got started in it in 1989, and some of my friends were doing it, so I figured if they were doing it, I could do it also.”
The event, which was organized by HT Production Company, was held in the European Village. This year’s benefiting organization was Teens-in-Flight, a Flagler County nonprofit that provides full flight training and aviation maintenance scholarships to teens who have lost a parent or sibling serving on active duty U.S. Armed Forces or is a teen or sibling of a parent who was wounded in action.
“It’s exciting because Heather and I have been very good friends for several years, and she’s been a very big advocate of what we do,” Teens-in-Flight CEO/President Col. Jack D. Howell said about HT Production Company’s Heather Thompson. “And to have this opportunity this time in our program, when we’re growing, it couldn’t come at a better time.”
Thompson said $1,725 was raised for the nonprofit through ticket entry and taste tester costs.
She said there were about six competitors who live in Flagler County, with the remaining participants traveling from the surrounding counties and from out-of-state striving to qualify for the ISC World Champion Chili Cook-Off, which will be on Sept. 28-30 in St. Louis, Missouri.
All participants are ISC members and ranged from professional chefs to casual cooks. The contestants prepared homestyle, verde and traditional red chili, as well as salsa, for four rounds of the competition. First place winners of each category qualify for the World Championships.
“Homestyle is my favorite lately because it’s what you and I would eat at the table,” Vickie Marnick, of ISC Chili, said. “It’s less rule-restricted, because the verde, the salsa and the red are very rule-restrictive as far as the ingredients in it, so it takes some practice to get it right, but homestyle, you throw it together and we’re good to go.”
Palm Coast hosted a ISC cook-off last December, as well. Marnick said that the European Village courtyard, with access to local business and residents in the apartments above, makes for a great competition location.
Having previously competed in 10 other chili cook-offs this year so far, Weltikol is already qualified to compete in the World Championship. He has participated in the World Championship for the last 17 years, and he can’t wait to be back.
His recipe for success? Passion, with a dash of emotion and a hearty helping of comradery.
When talking about his reason for competing, he paused, fighting back tears.
“Just happy about it all,” he said. “Just the people here, they’re all my friends.”