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JFK High School chili competition spices up scholarships

Brian Gurney, a teacher at Plainview-Old Bethpage Middle

Brian Gurney, a teacher at Plainview-Old Bethpage Middle School, used his grandmother's recipe for the Chili Cook Off at the high school. (Feb. 29, 2012) Credit: Alessandra Malito

Plainview-Old Bethpage Middle School teacher Brian Gurney picked up a small white paper cup and scooped chili into it -- a traditional chili recipe passed down to him from his grandmother. He stuck a spoon into the cup and handed it to someone waiting in line.

“It’s really good,” Gurney said. “I grew up eating it.”

He wasn’t the only one sharing chili recipes.

Teachers such as Gurney, administrators and parents competed Wednesday in a Chili Cook Off, hosted by the Plainview-Old Bethpage John F. Kennedy High School PTA to raise money for the Dollars for Scholars annual scholarship.

About 120 attendees tasted the 13 participants’ chilis -- which ranged from sweet to spicy, turkey to chicken, and meat to vegetarian. Tickets were sold at the entrance while a booth nearby had T-shirts for sale. There was also an entry fee for chefs. By the end of the night, $1,100 was raised for the scholarship fund.

“This brings all members – teachers, students, administrators – together,” said Sharon Lusher, the high school’s assistant principal. “This is the first Chili Cook Off and it’s getting great feedback.”

Alex and Alyssa Reifer ran around the high school gymnasium recruiting people to the table where their mom stood with her chicken chili.

“My mom should win the trophy,” said Alyssa, who is a second grade student at Parkwood Elementary School, referring to the gold trophy topped with a bowl of chili that read “POB Top Chef.”

Voters walked around the booths with their small paper cups and spoons. After they chose their favorite chili, they put their ballot in a small glass bowl to be counted at the end of the night.

The winner of the competition was Bruce Hymowitz, of Plainview, with his meat-based “Grateful Chili”.

“I enjoy cooking, and raising money for the school and community is good by me,” said Hymowitz, who was accompanied by his wife, Mindy, and his two sons, Jack and Rob. “Everybody who ate chili is a winner.”

The Dollars for Scholars scholarships go to graduating seniors who have displayed responsibility of commitment, growth and history of service in the community activities they participate in. The amount of money that goes to each student or how many scholarships depends on how much is raised. In the past two years, they have raised more than $18,000 and awarded scholarships to 14 students.

“We wanted to do something that was a little different and involved the community,” said Cheryl Dender of Plainview, who is on the PTA and planned the event along with Susan Stewart of Plainview. “It really was about the kids. It was just wonderful that the community came out to support the students in this way.”

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