Survival of the hottest

Published 8:52 pm Monday, January 21, 2013

A.J. Gators, the Chesapeake Square bar and grill, will turn up the heat this weekend with a chili cook-off to benefit the Suffolk Humane Society.

The eatery will hold the event for the fifth time Saturday from 11 a.m., with 100 percent of proceeds going to Suffolk Humane to assist in its efforts finding new owners for stray cats and dogs.

Organizer Mike Vedomske said the event will have four categories: red chili, white (chicken, for instance) chili, vegetarian chili and people’s choice.

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“We decided to have it there (at A.J. Gators), because it’s a convenient location,” he said. “We’ve been doing it for five years. It’s just after the playoffs and before the Super Bowl — a good time to do it.”

Vedomske, a woodworker, fashions wooden chilis for the winners in each category: a red wooden chili for first, yellow for second and green for third.

“They’re all the same size; nobody’s effort is any greater than anybody’s else’s,” Vedomske said of his carved creations.

Cook-off entrants are asked to bring a one-gallon crock of their special recipes, and each will receive a free event T-shirt.

Judging will take place after about midday, presided over by a panel of eight judges including two or three food professionals, such as cooks.

Chili samples will be available for purchase for 50 cents each, and the restaurant also will be selling food and beverages.

Entertainment is set to include popular local musicians Johnny Bland, Don Hamlet, Win Winslow and others, along with prizes and drawings.

Contestants are limited to the first 50 entry forms, which are available at the bar. “We have somewhere between 20 and 28 entrants,” Vedomske said. “It’s free for the public to come in, and it’s a fundraiser for the Suffolk Humane Society to help with their efforts.”

The cook-off usually draws folks from across Tidewater, Vedomske said. “We had a girl used to come in from D.C. every year, because she used to live here.”

The event has a fun vibe, A.J. Gators general manager Aimee Moseberph said. “People and families come out here and have fun,” she added.

For further details, call A.J. Gators at 405-3996 or Vedomske 729-2554.