By Mary Rose Moses

U.S. Army Operational Test Command

U.S. Army Operational Test Command celebrated a hot event this Jan. 11 during its seventh annual Chili Cook-off.

The lunchtime event and competition raised funds for the command's annual Children's Easter Party. This year's cook-off raised $389 for the March 27 party.

Cherise Jones, a G6 support services specialist, said the chili event has grown in scope and size during its seven-year history.

"It started in G6 as a fun, internal competition thing," Jones said. "Now it's an annual OTC event."

Eighteen contestants submitted their homemade chili recipes for the lunchtime competition. Many of the chili chefs used unorthodox ingredients, such as mashed potatoes, venison, beer and peanut butter. Guests at the cook-off sampled the chili and voted for their favorite concoction.

Patti Fant, G6 directorate secretary, explained the newly improved judging method: "We want it to be fair this year, hopefully, with no promotions, coercion or favoritism. We like the idea of letting people choose based on taste."

This year's cook-off had a sports theme. Photographs of high school, college and pro football teams decorated the tables, and guests were also encouraged to wear their favorite teams' sports jersey.

"Since it's close to the Super Bowl, we have a favorite football team theme," Jones said. "We have pictures of local high school teams from all over."

There was plenty to eat at the meal besides chili, including corn bread, crackers, cookies, pies and special desserts. Frank Leslie and Al Harris, from Battle Command and Communications Test Directorate, used Dutch ovens and charcoal to make peach and cherry cobblers, which were a crowd favorite.

Once everyone had eaten and the ballots were counted, commander Col. Donald MacWillie announced the top three contestants.

Luetta Kidwell, Aviation Test Directorate, won first place; Barbie James, G6, won second; and Master Sgt. Jay High, Battle Command and Communications Test Directorate, came in third. Miniature chili bowls were given as trophies to the winners.

Kidwell didn't expect to win the cook-off.

"I'm very excited, and surprised, actually," Kidwell said. "It's a lot of fun to do this."

Kidwell won this year's contest, but Operational Test Command employees have not yet come to a chili consensus. Col. Darrell Jenkins, the command's G4 director, said spice is nice.

"I love it spicy, preferably with jalapenos in it. Also, over the years I've become partial to venison," Jenkins said. "What I like best about the chili cook-off is the ability to sample them all."

Chili should be hearty, said Capt. Jacqueline Russell, of the command's G1.

"The chili I like is the kind with beans in it," she said.

Johnny Halter, the command's G6 director, disagreed.

"The definition of chili is there is no beans," he stated emphatically.

The command's public affairs officer, Eloise Lundgren, agreed.

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