On November 3, A-C-T Environmental & Infrastructure, Inc. (A-C-T) held their eighth annual Chili Cook Off to raise both money and awareness for the United Way of Central Florida. The flavorful event raised $15,030 in 120 minutes – bringing the eight-year grand total to $48,585.
A-C-T’s Jennifer Kincart Jonsson, who also serves as the firm’s United Way Employee Coordinator, had a vision for making the Chili Cook Off a signature event for the company’s annual fundraising campaign – one that would have broad appeal and grow to involve as many community members as possible. Based on the numbers, it’s evident the event is both well-established and very successful. Since 2010, this event has raised funds that directly benefits our local communities through programs supported by the United Way of Central Florida. This year, a record 500 attendees tested their taste buds on 54 chili entries (all donated) in three categories – mild, imaginative and hot.
“We attribute the event’s success to careful planning, wide-spread promotion, including extensive use of social media and e-mail to spread the word,” Jonsson said. “It’s also pretty evident that once folks experience the Chili Cook Off, they keep coming back, so the event is now well-established as an annual ‘must attend’ function. Also, there’s huge support for the United Way in Polk County -- and all of the money collected goes back to the United Way”
Judges in the hot category were: Sheriff Grady Judd, Roger Todd (97 Country Breakfast Club) and Kellie Cowan (FOX13).
Mild category judges were: Brian Haas (State Attorney), Randy Avent (Florida Polytechnic University) and Melony Bell (Polk County Commissioner).
Judges in the imaginative category were: Brian Burns (The Ledger Media Group), Merissa Green (Polk County Schools) and Seth McKeel (Southern Strategy Group).
Each judge made their way through the various chili entries, judging on five elements including aroma, color, consistency, taste and aftertaste. Their combined average scores determined the 2017 winners.
A-C-T announced first, second and third place overall high scoring winners and presented trophies to the 2017 top chefs:
1st Place Overall – Susan Hames for her Grateful Red Chili (hot category entry). This is the second year in a row, Hames earned the top chili chef title.
2nd Place Overall – Cynthia Deal with her “Barnyard Chili” (imaginative category entry)
3rd Place Overall – Janice Sylvain and “Gigi’s Chili” (mild category entry)
Specific category winners, each of whom received a certificate, were:
1st Place – Janice Sylvain – Gigi’s Chili
2nd Place – Zenaida Brown – Aji Chili
3rd Place – Jason Huffman – Buckin’ Good Chili
1st Place – Susan Hames – Grateful Red Chili
2nd Place – Pam Merashoff – Witching Hour Chili
3rd Place – Jennifer Fisher – Sweet and Sassy Chili
1st Place – Cynthia Deal – Barnyard Chili
2nd Place – Brandi Crawford – Kelly’s Chili
3rd Place – Sarah Massey –Chili United
Mark your calendars for next year’s Chili Cook Off. Held the first Friday in November, next year’s event will take place on November 2, 2018. For more information, contact A-C-T at 863-533-2000 or Chili2@A-C-T.com.