The soup and chili was flowing and there were smiles a plenty at Saturday’s Great American Soup Off (and Chili) competition. Organizers and attendees said this year’s event was the best yet.
The charity cooking competition was created several years ago by Suzanne Puckett and Leighanne Martin Wright and has become a favorite annual event in the community. Area cooks brought out their best soup or chili to be judged by a panel of secret judges as well as the public voting on the People’s Choice award. Proceeds from the event benefited local food bank Tri-County Christian Crisis Ministry (Tri-C.)
“It’s huge for us because it’s an opportunity for the people in the community to show off their cooking skills and benefit a great cause in Tri-C,” said Heather Macy, director of Tri-C. “It’s a lot of fun, there’s lots of great people, laughing and talking. It’s a good time to come together for a good cause. We’re hoping to continue to have it and continue to expand on it.”
Puckett and Wright were blown away by this year’s turnout.
“Wow,” Puckett said of the event as soup tasters filled the Roth Room at The Liberty to enjoy the soup. “Lots of people, lots of great soups, nine soups and six chilis, that’s the largest we’ve ever had. It’s great.”
The original event beneficiary would change each year, but Puckett said a group like Tri-C which assists those in need with putting food on the table is the perfect pairing for the food-based competition.
A number of local businesses help to sponsor the event including Rhythm on Main, The Liberty, 222 Public House, Hugh Chatham Aquatics & Wellness Center, Yadkin Valley General Store and Harry’s Place.
Cicely McCulloch, owner of The Liberty where the event was held, said it was a wonderful celebration of community and food.
“This is awesome. How often do you get together and have just a little taste of a lot of different stuff. The room is filled. It’s exciting,” McCulloch said.
One of last year’s winners, Douglas Sanders, who served as one of the secret soup judges this year, was impressed with the variety of styles represented.
“It’s interesting to see so many different styles of cuisine from different parts of the country,” Sanders said.
Among the soups were several seafood soups, some Tex-Mex styles, a unique dessert soup made from cherries and much more.
Kimberly Seipel-Parks entered a unique curry carrot soup.
“I just like any kind of curry and spice so it’s got a little kick to it,” she said.
Amber Transou entered a vegetarian broccoli and cheese soup that is a favorite of her daughter Cassidy.
“It’s got a little sort of a twist, not really a secret ingredient, but something you might not expect,” Transou said. The broccoli for the soup is roasted in the oven prior to making the soup, which she said gives it a little different flavor.
Among the chilis there were some unique options as well.
“All the chilis had quite a variety of flavors,” said taster Luann Hall. “My favorite was the chicken because the blend of flavors was absolutely delicious.”
The Classic Chicken Chili, made by David Arden, was a favorite with the judges as well and it took home the grand prize in the chili category. Winner of the People’s Choice award for chili was Dan Whelan with his Boilermaker Tailgate Chili.
Judges’ choice for the best soup went to Robert Ball and his daughter Cama Ball with their Chicken Not Beef Stew. A clam chowder made by Rebecca Dumas claimed the People’s Choice.
Winners of the judges’ prizes donated back all or a portion of their cash winnings to benefit Tri-C. The event raised a total of $885.
Kitsey Burns Harrison may be reached at 336-679-2341 or on Twitter @RippleReporterK.