The Great Friday Harbor Chili Cook-Off

Chef Bill will step out of his comfort zone from our Pacific Northwest Cuisine with a Mediterranean Flair to compete in the Friday Harbor Chili Cook-off.

Americans seem to love cook-offs, and chili is one of the most popular. From informal gatherings to elaborate competitions with trophies and prizes, chili cook-offs bring people together in every town across the U.S. Indeed, the Chili Appreciation Society International (CASI) sanctions over 550 cook-offs annually that raise more than $1,000,000 for charity.

The Chili Cook-off in Friday Harbor is on Saturday, October 5th starting at 3:30 at the Brickworks, right next door to Coho Restaurant. Sponsored by the San Juan Islands Agricultural Guild, it features six talented chefs creating bowls of red from local ingredients vying for the top title.

First let’s clarify: chile with an “e” at the end refers to the chile pod itself; chili with an “i” at the end is the name for the spicy concoction. But that’s about all that’s “standard.” Chilis can be made with beans or without, with meat or without, white or red, vegetarian or carnivorous, five-fire-alarm hot or mild as potato soup; it’s all up to personal taste. But typically, it’s spicy red versions that take the honors.

Chili in its various mutations has been around for eons, though it’s not, as some people think, from Mexico. It is known that chile peppers were used in Southwest America in the 17th century, and references to mixtures with beans and chiles made up by the poorest of poor show up in the ancient cuisines of China, India, Indonesia, the Arab nations, Italy, France, Spain and the Caribbean. reports “the mixture of meat, beans, peppers, and herbs was known to the Incas, Aztecs, and Mayan Indians long before Columbus and the conquistadores.”

According to, it is said that “some Spanish priests were wary of the passion inspired by chile peppers, assuming they were aphrodisiacs. A few preached sermons against indulgence in a food which they said was almost as ‘hot as hell’s brimstone’ and ‘soup of the Devil.'” No wonder it became so popular!

Even though chili is far from Chef Bill’s area of expertise and our signature Mediterranean flair, he’s game to give it a try, and will be creating a meat-based chili. As for the recipe, well, we can’t give it away right now, can we?

We hope you’ll join the fun and cheer him on with your votes. The Brickworks beer and wine garden will be open for business, and music will be provided by talented young local musicians. Admission is $15 for adults and $8 child 12 years or under.

See you at the Brickworks!



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