White, a member of the Carson City Kiwanis Club, has been entering his “Hillbilly chili” in official and people’s choice cook-offs around Nevada, winning the Dayton Valley Days Chili Cook-off and the Nevada Capital Chili Cook-off this summer. White competes in International Chili Society sanctioned contests and also in less regulated people’s choice contests, the latter of which are his favorite to prepare for.
“I did all the prep work yesterday, which was cutting the meat, chopping the peppers and mixing the spices and that took about six hours. The cooking part this morning took about three hours, and it came out perfect,” White said.
With his canopy set up for people to stop by and try his chili, White said he enjoys being able to interact with people at every event he goes to. Alongside his wife, Karen, and partner Justin Whitehead, the Dayton natives plan to continue attending similar events because their chili has become a community favorite.
“The most fun I have is talking to people and having them come up to the booth and share their stories. Some people come up and say they tried our chili the weekend before and came to see us again,” he said.
White walked away with $150 in cash for his first place finish. Second place went to Mary Geisler, who won $100, and third place went to O’Skis Pub and Grille owner Lee Pieiewski, who collected $50.
Victorian Square was covered with vendors marketing a variety of products, one of which was a face-painting booth that was attracting people of all ages. Jan Howell, of Silver Springs, set up her Fantasy Face Painting booth at about 9 a.m. and had already had about 15 customers by 1 p.m.
“I have had kids as young as 8 months old and I have also painted a 60-year-old man’s face so we get a good variety of people stopping by,” Howell said, adding that superheroes and butterflies were her most popular designs of late.
As a former teacher, Howell enjoys conversing with children and ensuring they understand the importance of education while they are visiting her booth.
“I try to make sure that they are reading and writing every day,” she said. “I have had several parents come up afterwards and thank me because they understand the value of education and even coming from a stranger it is good reinforcement.”
The Kiwanis Club of Reno sold tasting kits for the seven chili entries at $5 each, raising money to fund its children’s programs. The buzz inside O’Skis Pub and Grille on Victorian Avenue, where six of the seven chilis were being sampled, proved a variety of opinions about which chili was going to be voted for.
“Number seven is definitely the best,” sampler Ed Nelon said. His wife, Emy, said she preferred chili number one, but said number seven was good also. Another customer said he would only vote for number four and that they would win the contest without question.
The chili cook-off’s free-for-all-style came about because the International Chili Society was unable to sanction the event this year, allowing contestants the freedom to mix beans and other ingredients into their recipes, according to Pieiewski.