Catonsville church aims to spice up chili cook-off with more participants

St. John's United Church of Christ is calling on chili lovers to break out their best recipes, or at least a big appetite, for its third annual chili cook-off Sunday.

The Jan. 29 event, according to the church's pastor, Jennifer Glover, is designed to bring the church closer with the surrounding communities.

If the growth of the event from its first to second year provides any indication, the communities have taken notice.

"The first year, we had 50 people. Last year, we had 100 people," Glover said, noting the amount of chili also doubled, from a dozen pots to more than two dozen. "We really want the community to come and participate in this with us."

Barbara Truckenbrodt, a Catonsville resident for 30 years, entered the contest after reading an article about it in the Catonsville Times, she said, and won first prize, an Amazon gift card.

"(Winning) came as a big surprise to me," said Truckenbrodt, who is not a member of the church and entered at the urging of her sons Will, 22, and Daniel, 18.

Truckenbrodt said her chili won another award last year when her husband of 31 years, Brian, used it for a competition at work.

Truckenbrodt will once again enter her chili, which includes cubed chuck but no tomatoes, in Sunday's competition.

After last year's win, Truckenbrodt shared her recipe with the entire congregation in the church's bulletin continuing a tradition of openness established by the inaugural chili cook-off champion, Carl Manger.

Despite not being part of the church community before last year's competition, Truckenbrodt said she felt right at home.

"It was the friendliest group of people you'd ever want to meet. I didn't feel like an outsider at all," Truckenbrodt said. "It's fun, it'll be tasty and I encourage people to come out and eat."

Despite having an entry in the competition, Truckenbrodt said she has been asked to serve as a judge at this year's event, which includes categories such as Best Vegetarian Chili, Best Chili Con Carne and Please-help-me-my-mouth-is-on-fire Chili.

To tickle the fancy of Truckenbrodt's taste buds, she recommends recipes that aren't too spicy and have easily identifiable ingredients.

The contest will also feature a People's Choice award.

One of the new components of this year's cook-off comes from the church's collaboration with Brightview Senior Living, the facility next door to the church on South Rolling Road.

Each week, Glover holds a prayer group at the assisted-living facility, which includes anAlzheimer'scare component, said Michelle McQuillan, Brightview's program director.

After a recent prayer group meeting, Glover invited the 92 Brightview residents to the cook-off, McQuillan said, and as many as 20 of the residents will attend.

"The residents really just like to remain a part of the community and feel like they're giving back," McQuillan said, noting that many of the residents are originally from the area. "The chili cook-off is a great way to do that."

Brightview will be represented among the tasters and in the chili competition as well.

The residents had submitted six recipes as of Jan. 20, McQuillan said, and residents will vote on the recipe that sounds the best.

The residents will work together, McQuillan said, to make whichever recipe receives the most votes.

Brightview will also provide a door prize, and its chefs will make desserts for the event, McQuillan said.

"It gives us a sense of belonging, to be able to give back to the people who give to us," McQuillan said.

To enter the chili competition that takes place Jan. 29, 5-8 p.m. in the church's Fellowship Hall, contestants must make four quarts of chili and pay $5.

For those interested only in eating, $10 admission can be paid at the door.

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