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Hot enough for you? United Way Chili Cook-Off winners share secrets

Echo Press photo by Al Edenloff Playing off the event's theme, "Ole and Lena's Chili," Gardonville Telephone Cooperative received the Best Display Award. Michelle Elmer (left) and Toni Edwards were part of the team who created "Da Smokin Lenas' Hot Flash Chili." Others included Donna Guetter and Mary Lee Korkowski. Photos from the event can be found on the photo gallery.1 / 4
Echo Press photo by Al Edenloff Arabella Manor residents Doris and Myron Burkey enjoyed some chili while adding to the "Ole and Lena" theme of the cook-off.2 / 4
Echo Press photo by Al Edenloff Alexandria firefighter Dan Sieve ladled out a firey dose of chili at Tuesday's cook-off. The department's chili has won the hottest category two out of the last three years.3 / 4
Echo Press photo by Al Edenloff Tom E. Lee gave a thumbs up after sampling the Alexandria Fire Department's chili, which was selected as the hottest entry. Douglas County sheriff's deputies Brad Brejcha and Kevin Wiseman were also brave enough to try a bowl.4 / 4

Hot, spicy, peppery, tomatoey - and a few "uff dahs" thrown in for good measure.

That's a taste of what those attending the United Way of Pope and Douglas County's 13th annual Chili Cook-Off experienced Tuesday.

A total of 38 chili cook-off contestants competed for prestigious awards at the event.

Inspired by the theme, "Ole and Lena's Chili," many of the soup servers went all out with costumes and booths proudly reflecting their Norwegian heritage.

More than 730 people attended, which made the fundraiser a huge success, according to organizers.

More than 80 volunteers helped with the event. Businesses were another key ingredient, contributing more than 220 silent auction items and helping with promotion.

Trying to pry the recipes out of the chefs who whipped up this year's award-winners was a challenge but a few shared their secrets. Here they are:

Massman Automation


"M.A.D. Chili"

Winner - Open Division


Pork Sausage



Tomato sauce

Stewed tomatoes

Diced tomatoes

Chili beans

Black beans

Chili seasoning

Spiced with banana peppers, cayenne pepper - and a "special ingredient."

Tennessee Roadhouse

Winner - Commercial


Owner Kevin Cunningham described the restaurant's winning entry as "Proprietary Road House Chili with a few high-octane additives."

Alexandria Light

and Power

"Sveet and Sassy Chili"

People's Choice Award

Matt and Harlan used most of the traditional ingredients for making chili. However, they say their secret is Western dressing and honey mustard.

Knute Nelson

"Bucket Chili"

Most Unusual Winner

The chili was created by Knute Nelson's chef at Nelson Gables, Tom Knutson.

It was a beanless chili and featured prime rib as the meat. Lots of vegetables and spices were in the recipe, including some unusual ingredients like rutabagas.

To go along with the dish, Knutson also made homemade tortilla chips to dip in the chili.

The name of the entry, Bucket Chili, fit with Knute Nelson's booth theme, "Ice Fishing with Ole and Lena."

Alexandria Fire Department

Hottest Chili Winner

The cooks who came up with the firefighters' fire-breathing chili used 10 different kinds of chili peppers, including habanero, cherry habanero, jalapeno, serrano, red cayenne, bell, Thai pepper, sweet banana pepper, poblano pepper and a new one to hit the market - "ghost pepper," which is said to be four times hotter than the hottest habanero pepper.

One person who tasted the firefighter's chili said the full impact didn't hit him until he had walked a hundred feet away and then it burned to the core.

Al Edenloff
Al Edenloff is the news and opinion page editor for the Echo Press. He was born in Alexandria and lived most of his childhood in Parkers Prairie. He graduated with honors from Moorhead State University with a degree in mass communications, print journalism. He interned at the Echo Press in the summer of 1983 and was hired a year later as a sports reporter. He also worked as a news reporter/photographer. Al is a four-time winner of the Minnesota Newspaper Association's Herman Roe Award, which honors excellence in editorial writing.  
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