Thousands to Descend on Main Street for Annual Chili Cook-off
Americans love to eat. Whether it’s hot dogs and hamburgers, a juicy steak, or a slice of apple pie, we are a people all too happy to heed the call of a rumbling stomach.
But of all the foods out there, is there any that’s more American than a bowl of chili? Think about it. In this melting pot of a country where we value and celebrate diversity, here is a food that can be mild or spicy, meaty or vegan, white bean or classic. You can pour it over Fritos or maybe just top it with shredded cheddar and sour cream. It’s simple enough to eat with a spoon, yet complex enough to send you across the entire supermarket hunting down ingredients. Could it be this unique Americanness that inspired Tucker’s beloved annual Chili Cook-off?
“No,” says event organizer Jamey Wilson. “I just really love chili.”
Wilson is part of OTTMA, the Old Town Tucker Merchants Association. Eight years ago, the group decided to embrace Wilson’s love of seasoned meats and beans and turn it into a Main Street event. As it turned out, he was far from alone in his affection for this bliss in a bowl.
“The first year we were thinking if 500 showed up, we could consider that a successful event,” Wilson recalls. “Someone estimated we had 3,500 people. We were completely unprepared. We didn’t have the manpower, we didn’t have the resources. We took a lot of notes that year.”
The Cook-off has grown over the years and organizers are expecting as many as 40 entries for this year’s competition, which takes place on March 9. They will also feature a live music stage, headlined by popular 80s cover band Electric Avenue. It’s free to come out and enjoy the atmosphere, but to get your fill of chili it’ll cost you five dollars.
Proceeds from the Chili Cook-off go to the Day League, a DeKalb County-based non-profit that provides help to youth and adult survivors of sexual assault. Over the eight-year history of the Chili Cook-off, organizers have donated over $20,000 to charity.
As for the competition itself, prizes are given out for People’s Choice, Best Restaurant entry and Best Booth. For those hoping to take home some hardware this year, Wilson says the secret to chili success is quite complex.
“It’s got to have a great base flavor, the right amount of heat texture, smell, sometimes sweetness,” he explains. “It’s got to have something a little extra that you can’t really describe…some flavor or ingredient that you really haven’t had before.”
The Chili Cook-off serves as the kickoff to the 2019 Main Street event season, which is highlighted by Tucker’s proudest tradition, Tucker Day, on May 11.