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Pembroke keeps warm with annual cook-off event
Pembroke Mayor and chili cook-off organizer Mary Warnell congratulates Matt Longino for his second place finish in the North Bryan Chamber of Commerce's fifth annual Chili Cook-Off - photo by Crissie Elric

Chili was the dish of choice for dozens of North Bryan residents Saturday who braved a cold and rainy day to attend the fifth annual Chili Cook-Off in Pembroke hosted by the North Bryan Chamber of Commerce.
The event, held at the Pembroke Senior Center downtown, boasted fiesta-style décor, music and 11 different varieties of chili — the largest number of contestants to enter the contest, according to event organizer and Pembroke Mayor Mary Warnell.
“If I recall, 11 is our top number,” she said. “We have had 10 entrants before but not 11, and it has been fun.”
She said although the number of attendees was down slightly, she deemed the event a success.
“I think it was a success — the weather has certainly turned into a chilly afternoon,” she said with a smile. “It wasn’t quite as many people as we have had before, we had around 70 and we usually have about 75 or more, so it was close.”
Each entry was judged in a blind and random taste test by rookie judge Bryan County Drug Free Coalition director William Collins, and veteran judges Neumann Dotterweich and Tiffany Pennington with West Rehab services. Celebrity judge radio personality Big Mac from Kix 96 could not make the event as planned.
The judges determined the top three contestants based on color, aroma, consistency, taste and aftertaste.
“It’s been really, really cool, and really fun working with the other judges and discussing the different tastes,” Collins said. “It’s really been a lot of fun. There are so many different varieties. They’re all good — but some were better than others.”
Dotterweich said he admired the “imagination” each entry had.
“I like not knowing which chili is which and not doing them in order,” he said. “The imagination aspect of all this is great because they are no rules to chili. Great imagination by everybody.”
Taking home first place was Brittany Russell with her personal chili recipe. It was Russell’s first time entering a chili cook-off.
“It’s been good. I was surprised,” she said after taking the top prize. “It was pretty easy, I had a lot of fun and will definitely come next year.”
Magnolia Matt’s chili, cooked by returning entrant Matt Longino, took home second place. Longino also placed second in the competition last year.
Third place went to Dina McKain, who, like Russell, was entering a chili cook-off for the first time.
“I was absolutely amazed,” she said of the outcome. “I knew my chili was good, but I didn’t know it was that good. I’m really excited.”

Read more in the Feb. 20 edition of the News

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