For the last seven years, one day each Stampede, the Calgary Co-op Kitchen Theatre stage has been the scene of the great chili cook-off among 3 teams from the Boys and Girls Clubs of Calgary. This year the competition takes place on Wednesday, July 13th at 11AM on the Calgary Co-op Kitchen Theatre stage in BMO Marketplace Hall A.

Boys and Girls Club 2014

The kids are incredibly creative and draw on their own culinary experiences (and maybe some advice from mom and dad) to come up with various themes on the traditional chili. We’ve tasted “Jamaican Me Crazy” , “Cha Cha Chicken”, “Chili, chili, bang, bang” chili and many more. It is so much fun to watch these kids embrace the Stampede experience .

Kids chili cookoff Nenshi 2015

Sarah Kemmers from the Calgary Boys and Girls Club BGCC has been involved with the chili cook-off for a number of years and shares some of her experiences with us.

Calgary Stampede:  How did the cook-off start?

Sarah Kemmers:  Julie van Rosendaal a Calgary Foodie and regular on the Kitchen Theatre stage started it in 2007 Julie won a Stampede chili cook-off when she was a teenager competing against adults. She thought it was important for kids to have an opportunity to compete against each other.

CS:  The kids can get very creative with their chili recipes. Where does their inspiration come from?

Sarah :  I think the main inspiration to get creative comes from the fact that all of the kids have to include at least one secret ingredient. This is where we see them get really creative and take chances on non-typical ingredients. We’ve had kids use marshmallows, coffee, fruit, cream cheese, bacon – all sorts of interesting ingredients! They usually do a pretty fantastic job of creating a recipe that is appealing and not overpowering, despite some of the non-traditional ingredients we’ve seen used.

CS:  What do you think the kids gain from this experience?

Sarah:  The chili cook off is a valuable experience for kids in so many ways! Learning basic cooking competencies is a huge part of the experience. Learning how to measure, cut, prepare, and cook. In addition to those life skills, having the children work in teams alongside a supportive leader creates an opportunity for them to experience teamwork and a sense of belonging.

At Boys and Girls Clubs of Calgary we are passionate about giving kids the chance to experience new opportunities, overcome barriers, build positive relationships and develop confidence and skills for life. The chili cook off experience creates a tangible opportunity for all of these things to happen. It’s always heartwarming to see how hard the kids work at their recipes and how proud they are when they get to present them.

CS:  Any memorable or funny moments you would like to share?

Sarah: There was a pretty surprising chili this year in the semi-finals which take place before Stampede. When the children served it up, it looked like a basic bean chili being served with corn bread. As soon as we (the judges) put the first spoonful in our mouths, we quickly realized this was no ordinary chili. We had been deceived!

First of all – it was COLD! The kids had decided to pitch a “dessert chili!” The chili was a mix of cherries, pudding, raisins, and brownies. What appeared to be corn bread was actually pound cake. Their justification was that the weather during Stampede is usually hot, and people would probably love a cool, untraditional treat. It was super creative, not to mention delicious! That was pretty memorable.

CS:  You’ve tasted a lot of chili over the past 7 years. Do you have a memorable recipe you would like to tell us about?

Sarah:  Two years ago there was a recipe called “Jamaican me crazy!” It was probably the best chili I’ve ever tasted. It was a vegetarian chili. I can’t really remember the exact ingredients, but I know that there was cilantro and sour cream involved and that it was served with home made corn bread. It was amazing.

Kids Chili Cookoff 2015-07-08 22.38.22

Photo courtesy of Emily Richards

For a full list of presenters on the Calgary Co-op Kitchen Theatre stage please visit the Western Showcase website.