SUGAR GROVE – After eating eight varieties of chili during the Sugar Grove American Legion Chili Cook-Off on Dec. 2, John Drew took a long drink of his beer and acknowledged to his fellow judges that the chili was quite tasty.
But none of them came anywhere close to his all-time favorite – Taylor’s Mexican Chili from Carlinville.
Drew, the senior vice commander of Post 1271, meant no offense to the creators of the contest chilis. It’s just that he considers Taylor’s to be beyond compare, and he’s the kind of guy who takes his chili rather seriously.
“I love chili, and all I could think of in my mind was Taylor’s,” he said. “It’s a family business in southern Illinois, and I used to hunt down there but haven’t been back in a few years. Their chili is really the best, and it’s been around a long time. You can still get it, but you can’t make it yourself because they won’t give you the recipe.”
Unlike the makers of Taylor’s, Rob Yates was more than willing to share some secrets about his award-winning chili, which earned top honors in both the people’s choice competition and from the judges on Dec. 2.
“It’s my own recipe, which I’ve kind of worked on perfecting over the years,” Yates said. “Some of my friends told me I should write down my list of ingredients. It’s a long list. I use four different kinds of onions, six different types of peppers and I like to use fire-roasted tomatoes for my base.”
Yates also adds a few special ingredients, including shots of vodka, whiskey and a French liqueur, that add to his deliciously flavored base.
“I like to cook, and I watch a lot of cooking shows,” Yates said. “I do like making stuff in the kitchen and had won the people’s choice before but wanted to win both in the same year, and this was the first time I did it.”
Along with Drew and a few others, Sugar Grove Village President Sean Michels had the pleasure of sitting back and eating chili while washing it down with cold drinks and ranking the various chili samples.
“There’s a good variety of chili, and they’re very good,” Michels said. “Some are chunkier than others, and some have more meat.”
This marked the third consecutive year that Post 1271 has hosted the chili cook-off. Successful once again, the event will likely return next year.
Trevor Sartain, commander of Post 1271, said all eight entries were pretty edible, including his own chili.
“It’s always a fun thing to do,” he said. “It’s nice to be able to do something like this with the community. I think we had 12 [entries] in it last year and eight the first year and eight again [on Saturday]. It’s one of the fun things we do here, and we also have our fish fry, karaoke, live music and more.”
After the winners were announced and prizes were awarded, many entrants stuck around for karaoke.