MARINE CORPS BASE HAWAII --
More than 40 teams spiced up an otherwise regular family day at Dewey Square with a chili cook-off, July 3, 2013.
Marines and sailors from Marine Aircraft Group 24 and their families kicked off their Fourth of July weekend competing for prizes in various categories.
While the chili contestants put the finishing touches on their tables, members of the U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Pacific Band belted out familiar musical numbers, children marched in a mini parade around the square, and Col. Paul Fortunato, the commanding officer of MAG-24, made a few remarks.
This was the very first competition for some of the chili contestants, like Sgt. Michael Moody, a heavy equipment mechanic for Marine Wing Support Detachment 24. Moody said he enjoys cooking and wanted to give the competition a try. His strategy included using steak instead of ground beef for the chili.
Various contestants found unique ways to market their chili to folks. Lt. Cmdr. Joshua Potocko, a flight surgeon with Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 367, used his medical background as part of his theme for “Medical Grade Chili,” using different types of medical equipment to hold and dispense chili ingredients. Potocko, dressed in a lab coat, while measuring and dispensing each ingredient with a syringe. Potocko said he had never competed in a chili cook-off before. In order for him to prepare for the competition, Potocko credited trial and error, and experimentation.
Several competitors wore costumes to complement their chili, such as members of team “TuTu Delicious,” who wore American flags in their hair and pink tutus. TuTu Delicious claimed the title of “best tasting chili” at the cook-off.
The members of “Yeti’s Bowls of Steel” wore fitness gear and wigs. The members of “Explosion” consisted of service members working in the ordnance department of Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 24. In the spirit of Fourth of July fireworks and an ordnance theme, “Explosion” wore party hats, leis and colorful mustaches.
Some competitors were no strangers to chili preparation, and put their knowledge and experience to the test.
“I’ve been cooking chili all my life,” said Sgt. Nathan Grove, the force deployment planning and execution chief at Marine Aircraft Group 24. “Hopefully it’ll come out really well.”
Grove, of Commerce, Texas, used recipes he learned from his hometown, and paid tribute to the first chili cook-off in Texas by cooking traditional Terlingua chili, referring to Texas mining district Terlingua, where two popular chili cook-offs occur annually.
Like Moody, Grove explained that steak is more commonly used in preparing competitive chili, as opposed to regular ground beef. Grove and his team were meticulous in their preparation, with some team members portioning spices while others cut the meat into cubes. Grove agrees with the saying “You can cook my recipe but you will never be able to cook my chili.” In other words, chili can taste different among cooks even though they use the same recipe, because the cooking process varies, such as the timing in adding spices.
He said the competition was an opportunity to build camaraderie and promote esprit de corps. Grove’s team, called “3-mile runs,” combined the Marine Corps’ fitness standards with spicy chili.
Sgt. David Revels, an avionics technician with HMLA-367, required every Marine who tried his chili to sign an initial waiver, should the chili cause harm. The native of Gastonia, N.C., said he knew he had a hot chili and decided to enter chili made from a secret family recipe. Several brave souls who took on the “Lethal Injection” chili challenge truly felt the burn.
“(The chili is) way hotter than I expected,” said Sgt. Darren Terry, a supply clerk at MWSD-24. “One of the hottest things I’ve ever tasted in my life. It’s good but it’s bold. No doubt the hottest one here.”
Terry joked with fellow colleagues as tears rolled down his cheeks, and he reached for cornbread to extinguish the fire in his mouth.
Opinions about each chili varied among the taste testers.
“’Yeti’s Bowls of Steel’ chili is the best in the world by far,” said Capt. Dan Murphy, the aviation safety officer of MAG-24, who sampled the “Yeti” chili. “(The chili has the) right amount of heat (and the) right amount of cool.”
As the day wore down, several teams walked away with special prizes, dominating in each of the categories of the cook-off.