Next Three South Florida “Early Qualifiers”

Hi Everyone,

The South Florida 2014 “Chili Year” got off to a rousing start with the first-time back-to-back “Smokin on the Bay” cookoffs on December 7 & 8; held at a spectacular location on the north end of the Miami Seaquarium, with a ‘killer view’ of the Miami skyline. Both upgraded to Regionals, in spite of the awful weather up north that weekend that cost us three cooks because of air traffic SNAFUs.

An important “heads-up” for next December. The organizers were most happy with these first-time events; and are not only planning on bigger and better ones for next year, but have already reserved the location and paid the deposit.

Now is time to focus on the upcoming early part of the traditional “Southernmost Chili Tour”, comprised of three WCCC qualifiers within an eight day period.

Leading off is “Chili in the Village Regional Cookoff” on Saturday February 8 at the gorgeous Pinecrest Gardens. This was the home of the Miami Parrot Jungle for decades, until it moved to Watson Island around 12 years ago and the site was acquired, plus enhanced by the (very upscale) Village of Pinecrest.

Pinecrest Gardens was once described by long time cook Marylyn Fredrick as “the most beautiful place I’ve ever cooked chili”, back when the cookoff was first held there for several years in 2003-2007. This year’s cookoff will be the second after last year’s successful resurrection of the event as a District - which upgraded to a Regional - and Marilyn’s comment was echoed by all the first-time there cooks…the old timers “had been there, done that” and just nodded appropriately.

For all our cooks from last year; based on what I’ve seen of the planning expect a bigger, better, smoother and more fun event for this year. For those of you that couldn’t make it last year; I highly recommend it as a superb cookoff, and one more than well worth joining us for this year.

For all the cooks who plan to come this year, a couple of things.

  • Learning from the totally unanticipated large crowd that showed-up last year, who exhausted the People’s Choice in something like a half hour and resulted in lots of disappointed folks who didn’t get a taste, this year the organizers have eighty (80) large 105 ounce cans of Chef-Mate Chili with Beans on hand, to give you in order to supplement your People’s Choice
    • That’s not an excuse to not bring any, unless you are one of the fly-ins; but even you guys, please bring a pot…or let us know and somebody will lend you one
    • The Chili Chicks will be part of the entertainment this year – BTW; they just won their third Team Line Dancing World Championship in December – and they will do several performances in the “Banyan Bowl”
      • For those who have cooked here before, the Banyan Bowl is that stage type amphitheater area with all the theater-like seating, where we did the judging last year (and during the prior cookoffs)
      • Yes I know that it is hard to top the entertainment value of watching chili judging…but hey

Finally for all of our ‘out-of-state’ cooks; most especially those from the more northern latitudes…

Given your rather extreme and brutal weather so far this year, you might consider a 10 day sunny South Florida soiree. Escape the cold, visit the Florida attractions…and have three shots at the WCCC (see following); you certainly deserve it after what you’ve been through - and continue to according to the news today!

The weekend following Chili in the Village, will be the back-to-back cookoffs by the Moose Lodge of Islamorada in the Florida Middle Keys – “Florida Keys Regional Cookoff” and “Florida State Chili Championship” - on February 15 & 16.

I suppose the best anecdotal endorsement I can think of for these cookoffs, is that when I first see cooks at the WCCC whom we haven’t seen for a year, the first thing I often hear after greetings are the questions: “are we having the cookoffs in the Keys?…and do you know when they will be?”

I’ve learned from the past, so now I have the answers ready; that since several years back I actually had to call the Chairman from the WCCC to confirm both, such was the urgency and insistency of the questioners for the information NOW. Hard to come up with anything more illustrative of these cookoffs’ popularity with those cooks who have “made the pilgrimage”.

Of course it is obvious to the most casual observer, that the popularity of these cookoffs is due entirely to their magnificent underlying mechanics, plus the superb judging…and has absolutely nothing to do with the environs of their location. Nobody in their right mind would ever want to go and spend time in the Florida Keys in February!   

And with that last, I’ll close. Looking forward to seeing many, many, many of you in February for these three outstanding cookoffs…and if you can’t make these; the next wave of (probably) four cookoffs will come in April, to “close out” the “South Florida Chili Season” until the 2015 chili year,

Sergei Kowalchik



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