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Chili competition heats up
Wright wins 10th annual Exchange Club cook-off
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A newcomer to the chili cooking sport upset the perennial powerhouse in the 10th annual Exchange Club Chili Cook-Off held Tuesday night at Locust Street Family Life Center.
While taking home the coveted award for best chili during the combined contest held between the Evening and Noon Exchange clubs, new champion Ashley Wright admits the chances of being able to recreate her prize-winning recipe will be a challenge.
"To tell you the truth I don't know if I can do it exactly that way again," Wright said after accepting the first-place award. “It seems I take after my nanny, Mildred Gillentine, in that I don’t use a recipe when cooking most of the time. Sometimes that turns out badly, but most of the time it’s good — especially this time.”
Wright took first over fellow Noon Exchangite Tracy Travis.
"This is great," Wright noted. "I've cooked for quite a while but this is the first time I've won an award."
Wright unseated multi-time Exchange chili champ Thomas Smith who has won the contest six out of its 10 years. The Evening Exchange Club member admitted he had changed his recipe this year, opting to give the judges something new to consider. Even in defeat, he held to his long-held principal to never reveal what's in the pot.
"A good chili cook never tells all his ingredients," the six-time winner noted.
Smith did reveal that one key to a winning chili is to make it ahead of time and put it away for a few days.
"Left over chili is always better," Smith said.
While Smith is old hat at winning chili awards, for a new Noon Exchange member Dr. Karla Adesso, it was not only her first contest but was her first time cooking chili. She moved to McMinnville about six months ago and joined the Noon Club which meets every other Tuesday at the building where she works.
"Everyone else always made it so I didn't usually have to do it," the TSU Nursery Center research scientist revealed. "Now, I'm a pretty good cook so I researched different recipes and took the best of all of them."
Judges for the contest included local radio personality Jeff Barnes, Southern Standard reporter Donna Anderson and School Board member Bill Zechman.
"I look for a subtle but unforgettable piquacy and a strong finish," Zechman said in describing his dream chili.
Anderson said she looks for strong flavor and a thickness. Barnes also looks for flavor along with a kick.
The chili cook-off is an annual event held to bring the two civic clubs together for a social meeting as well as the contest. The clubs have plans to hold a chili contest which would be open to all chili makers in Warren County.
Wright was able to recreate her recipe, and it follows:

Ashley Wright’s Award-Winning Chili
3/4 pound of ground turkey
1/2 pound of sweet Italian ground sausage
3 cans chili hot beans
1 14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes
1 28 oz. can peeled and crushed tomatoes
1 packet French's Chili-O Seasoning Mix with Onion
1 2 oz. jar diced pimientos
1 teaspoon teriyaki sauce
About 4 shakes of paprika, cumin, Cajun seasoning, black pepper, garlic salt and seasoning salt (I used Steak 'n Shake Fry and Steak Seasoning)
Brown the meat according to package directions. Add meat and all other ingredients to crock pot. Set on low overnight or about 6 to 8 hours.