August is a perfect time to serve up a steaming hot bowl of chili.
Just ask Jon Tupper.
“It’s just a soup,” Jon said. “We make it just like any other food group.”
Jon knows a thing or two about chili. Like just about any guy who tinkers around a grill or in the kitchen, Jon has made his own chili for years. Some time ago, Jon fell into the world of competitive chili cooking. He competed in several events and met some great people, and the next thing he knew he was heading up the Mo-Kan Chili Pod, a group of 25 to 30 folks from Southwest Missouri and Southeast Kansas who compete under the umbrella of the Chili Appreciation Society International.
A longtime competitive barbecue contestant, Jon quickly came to enjoy the more relaxed, low-key, friendly atmosphere that simmers at a CASI competition. And unlike some of your big-time barbecue competitions, chili cooks don’t roll up with expensive, over-the-top grills or cooking equipment.
“We all cook on Coleman-style camp stoves and, in a typical competition, use about two pounds of ground beef. The competitions only last one day, and they aren’t that expensive, so you can get more people involved,” he said.
Jon is hoping to get plenty of people involved on Saturday, Aug. 3, when the Mo-Kan Chili Pod holds the Missouri State CASI Chili Championship. The contest — aptly titled the Route 66 Mother Road Chili Cook-Off — is being held in conjunction with the Route 66 International Festival being held in Joplin and will begin at 9 a.m. at the Hogs and Hot Rods Saloon on old Route 66 and State Line Road just west of Joplin.
There will be two chili categories: Official CASI Chili and No Rules Chili. The CASI chili must be prepared under the organization’s guidelines, while the No Rules chili can be freewheeling.
“If you make it, call it chili and eat it, then it qualifies,” Jon said.
There also will be a traditional and nontraditional salsa contest and a wing contest. Entry fees for the chili contests are $25 for one category or $35 for both. The salsa contest fee is $5 each, and the wing contest is $10. To enter or for more information, contact Jon at 417-439-8605.
Tasting kits will be available to the public for $5 after 1 p.m., which means a five-spot will get you some really good food.
Cash prizes will be awarded in all categories and all money raised will go to Mo-Kan Youth Charities.
Jon said the Route 66 Mother Road Chili Cook-Off is more than just a chili competition. Think of it as more of an all-day party that happens to have a lot of great food. In addition to the cook-off, there will also be live music, raffles and a host of special activities.
There will also be some pretty heavy-duty chili cooks on hand. No fewer than four and possibly five CASI Terlingua International Chili Champions are planning to be in attendance, including reigning champion T.J. Cannon as well as 2012 champion Larry Walton, 2010 champ Tom Dozier and 2004 champion Roger Foltz. Jon said having all of that expertise in one place at the same time is a chili coup.
“In the chili cook-off world, this is a big deal,” Jon said.
Oh, if you bump into one of the chili champs, don’t be afraid to ask for a few tips. Jon said that most folks in the chili cook-off world are free with not only their advice but their recipes. Up to a point.
“We have a saying that goes: You can make my recipe, but you can’t make my chili,” Jon said.
A second cook-off will be held on Sunday, Aug. 4, at the Joplin Holiday Inn. For entry information for that cook-off, you can also contact Jon.
For more information about the entire weekend you may visit www.route66internationalfestival.com, www.mokanchilipod.org or www.casichili.net.
Do you have an idea for Mike Pound’s column? Call him at 417-623-3480, ext. 7259, or email him at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @mikepoundglobe.