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Chili cookoff heats things up in Bellport

"Rose's Chili" created by Brookhaven resident Beth Rose was one of the entries in the chili cookoff at Avino's Italian Table in Bellport Sunday night. (Feb. 20, 2011) Credit: Kaitlynn Mannino

Warm hearts and slow cookers raised more than $700 for a local charity at a chili contest Sunday evening at Avino's Italian Table in Bellport.

Community members and aficionados alike paid $10 for admission to sample chilis with names like "Twisted Texan," "Slow Cooked Texas" and "The Chili B's." The proceeds were donated to Mercy Center Ministries Inc. in Patchogue and will go toward helping homeless girls and teen mothers in its residential program.

"This is a good thing for the community," said Helen Harmon, associate director at Mercy Center Ministries.

Her sentiments were echoed by Raymond Barry, chef of  the "Chili Beast" that took home third place. "It's all about charity, and it's all about fun," said Barry, 48, of Brookhaven.

"It's hard to tell which one is your favorite after the first hot one," said the program's board director, Catherine Olinger, of the spicy dishes she sampled.

The first place winner of the contest, "Three Bean Chili," was created by Maria Garcia, 27, of Patchogue. Her secret?

"Lots of love," she said.

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