Taste buds were stimulated in Baldwin on Sunday when neighbors taste tested various chili recipes.
Susan and Samantha Cools — mother and daughter duo known as the Cools Team — brought back the Chili Cook-Off for the fifth year. In 2019, the Baldwin Rotary Club created and sponsored the event, but the club was disbanded the following year, during the pandemic, and the Coolses have since partnered with The Irish Pub to sponsor it.
“Last year, we hosted the cook-off as a fundraiser for a bartender who had gotten hit by a car and was severely hurt,” Susan said. “This year, the cook-off wasn’t a fundraiser but just a fun event.”
She explained that the main reason to continue sponsoring the cook-off is to bring the community together. In previous years that the event was held, some of those who attended had never visited Baldwin before, so Susan used the cook-off to give them a taste of the community.
“We do everything we can to try to encourage a sense of community in Baldwin,” she said.
Community events such as the cook-off provide locals with an opportunity to explore different area businesses. Susan added that the pub’s owner, Shawn Sabel, has helped various individuals and organizations in the community, which is a good reason to partner with the business.
“For different events in the town, like at the Grand Baldwin Festival, Shawn is always out there cooking,” Susan said. “He does a lot for Hangout One Happy Place, and he just goes above and beyond more than anybody, and it’s so appreciative.”
Susan said she wants to work with a business that continues to uplift the community, adding that the pub’s atmosphere is always very laid back and fun.
“People can just sit, relax, and it’s comfortable,” she said.
The Coolses chose chili for this event because it is held close to the Super Bowl, and a big pot of chili is integral to football culture. Chili is also a simple dish to make with several different variations.
“The first year that we did this event, the winner made a buffalo-flavored chili,” Susan said.
Other chili variations have included vegan, vegetarian, chili with venison, and more. This year, the chili flavors included a smokey flavor, while some other chilis had a jalapeño flavor. There was also a white chicken chili flavor.
“People are always pleasantly surprised,” Susan said, “because for the $10 fee to get in, you get a complimentary drink, and you get to taste every one of the chilies and vote for your favorite chili.”
The Cools Team put up a $200 first place prize that was collected by the winner at the end of the evening. The winner was Bernice McCann.
The Coolses plan to continue promoting community involvement with similar events in the future. Susan noted that the cook-off was not only important to the Cools Team, but also provided a social gathering for neighbors to meet one another. This, according to Susan, is the backbone of the community.