Jamie Bernstein had never tasted chili, and what better way for the 17-year-old to try it for the first time than by tasting 17 different homemade styles at her school’s annual Chili Cook-Off.
Bernstein was among roughly 100 attendees to walk from table to table tasting chili Tuesday night at the second annual school cook-off, which serves as a scholarship fundraiser for Plainview-Old Bethpage John F. Kennedy High School seniors.
The friendly competition challenged 17 teams of faculty, students, parents and Plainview hospital personnel to cook the “most delicious” chili, voted on by attendees.
Bernstein, 17, a senior at the school, was glad that she gave it a try.
“I never knew that I could like chili so much,” she said. “I don’t like the spicy ones so much, but I’m a huge meat eater, so I was open to trying anything.”
Susan Stewart, vice president of the Parent-Teacher Association and in charge of college awards, said the cook-off was created to raise money for Dollars for Scholars, a scholarship campaign for seniors at the school who have shown a strong commitment to their community.
She said this year’s event raised $1,000, enough for one scholarship.
“We’re lucky to have such a strong family-based community,” said Stewart, 45, of Plainview. “We’re proud to show our support for our students to go further in their education.”
Mia Schwartz, who placed first for her “Mama Mia’s Amazin’ Caliente Chili,” incorporated ground sirloin, beans, tomatoes, garlic, cocoa, onion, habanero and other seasonings.
“This was so much fun,” said Schwartz, 47, of Plainview. “It’s just a nice old-fashioned cook-off. But this isn’t just about raising money, it’s a chance for families to spend time together.”
Schwartz was stunned to find that her chili was named, “most delicious.”
“I was concerned my chili would be considered too ordinary, but I think most people are purists and some of the other cooks had some exotic flavors in their chili,” said Schwartz, who was awarded a small trophy and $50 gift card to ShopRite. “It’s nice to be recognized.”
Aimee Reifer, 38, of Plainview, came in second for her chicken chili, receiving a $25 gift card to Trader Joe's. All others received a bronze medal of participation.
Jason Andrews, a business teacher at the school and member of the Red Hot Business Teachers team, said by placing food at the center of a fundraiser, families will come out.
“It’s a great idea,” said Andrews, 36, of West Islip. “The turnout and chili selection was so impressive. There’s an eclectic mix of chili to choose from. This was just a great night.”