Parker chili cook-off 'A labor of love'

Chili cook-off raises money for downtown, brings chili lovers together

Posted 10/22/19

The key to a good chili starts with a village, said Michael Strauss. Strauss' chili won top honors for Best Red Chili and Most Creative Chili at the second annual Chili Cook-Off hosted by the …

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Parker chili cook-off 'A labor of love'

Chili cook-off raises money for downtown, brings chili lovers together

Posted

The key to a good chili starts with a village, said Michael Strauss.

Strauss and Christina Guertin, a realtor with Barrington Group, won top honors for Best Red Chili and Most Creative Chili at the second annual Chili Cook-Off hosted by the Downtown Business Alliance on Oct. 20. Strauss said family and love were instrumental in helping Strauss and his team “S(mac)key and the Bandit" take home the hardware in the second annual event.

The team name is a nod to his signature cornbread mac and cheese with chili on top he brought last year. Strauss is a creative chili cook, striving to out-do himself each year. Last year, Strauss experimented with different ingredients and add-ons.

“This year I had to take it a step further,” Strauss said. “I took the cornbread mac and cheese, with the chili on top—by the way, the chili by itself stands alone. Then, we incorporated three cremes and aiolis.”

Strauss said the bacon aioli was the most popular choice, made with egg yolks, caramelized bacon and brown sugar. Strauss added “Fritos snow,” crushed up Fritos, on top to finish it off.

Strauss, general manager of the Parker Garage, said he hopes to open his own downtown business one day, but the jury is still out on whether his award-winning chili will be served.

“The DBA is why this downtown is going to thrive,” Strauss said. “I want to be a thriving business owner myself.”

The annual chili cook-off raised about $5,000, for the DBA, a group of business leaders in downtown Parker. The DBA hopes to raise enough money to install more of the town's iconic globe lights and Bluetooth speakers to better serve events that showcase downtown like Parker Days and the Christmas Carriage Parade.

This year, the Chili Cook-Off brought hot dogs and beers from Parker's four microbreweries to the party and awarded a “Best Chili Beer” to Barnett & Son Brewing Co. Some, like Strauss, took their chili to the next level. Others, like Alissa and Rob Cowley and Chris and Tish Bridgeford of the team Chili-N-Beans, focused on the craft of chili, providing a lamb, veal and grass-fed beef chili with a Tex-Mex kick and a classic style option. Chris is known for sautéing his ingredients while his partner, Rob, favors caramelizing them.

“You have to take time to cook the meat with the right seasonings and everything with the right vegetables,” said Chris Bridgeford. “It's a labor of love.”

Kris Schnell, of the DBA, said the DBA plans to host more events like this to attract people to downtown Parker, particularly people who don't live near downtown, to bring people together in the town.

“We want to help our business owners in downtown Parker succeed and do that by making downtown Parker a vibrant and fun destination,” Schnell said. “We need more places, but we also need to let people know how much fun it is down here and get them to experience it.”

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