Spicy stuff: North Bend's What’s Cookin’ Chili Cookoff brings a taste of community flavors to Festival at Mount Si

  - Seth Truscott/Staff Photo
— image credit: Seth Truscott/Staff Photo

A bubbling, well-seasoned pot of chicken chili won a major award. And brought mom and daughter a little bit closer together.

In 2012, the Old Hens, a mother-daughter team of  Deanna and Brittany Morauski, took home the people’s choice award in the Festival at Mount Si Chili Cookoff for their Chick Chick Chili.

Deanna, who runs the Old Hen Bed and Breakfast in North Bend, has every year fun cooking with her daughter, and enjoys the hearty competition at the Festival cooking challenge, which is judged by a local panel and by the people.

With Brittany, a Mount Si graduate who took part in the culinary program, Deanna explores how Murphy’s Law affects the art of the chili pot.

“I try to get her to watch me deal with mistakes or catastrophes, as well as positives,” Deanna said. “We laugh our way through. It makes for wonderful memories.”

One year, the stove wouldn’t work. Deanna had to convince a competitor teammate to help, which he did, after humorously refusing.

Competition is real, but lighthearted. Deanna remembers how, one year, opposing teams handed one team a sympathy card for failing to win—even before the judging took place.

“We were kind of poking fun under that tent,” she said. “There’s a lot of fun and silliness.”

As ever, the battle rages on between the chili purists, who prefer their stew without beans, and folks who grew up with bean-filled chili con carne.

“I actually prefer no beans,” says Deanna, who refines her chili recipes annually, says there’s a lot of memories tied to the recipes. Deanna was honored to be chosen tops by the audience.

With all chili cooked from scratch, the day of the event, you’ve got to have your soup skills sharp.

Expect Deanna, teams from Sallal Grange and plenty of other locals to grab their chili spoons and return to the What’s Cookin’ Chili Cook-off, sponsored by the North Bend Bar & Grill, 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 11, on the festival grounds at Si View Park.

There are two contests, a judge’s choice and the people’s trophy. Judges are local restaurateurs, movers and shakers. The people’s choice is made by festival-goers, who pay $5 for a chance to taste chili. Proceeds are donated to the festival.

The community sampling begins at 1 p.m. Awards are announced at 2:15 p.m.

Top cooks win $300.

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