Eolia man wins state chili cook-off
Missouri green verde chili champion Henry Stephens, of Lake Horn, Miss., gets his creation ready for the judges who crowned him. Cooking team partner Jim Lewis, also of Lake Horn, is in the background.
Pike County’s own George Rives, of Eolia, won the Missouri State Chili Cookoff in the red chili division on Saturday, Aug. 3 at the Appleshed in Clarksville.
Rives will now travel to the world competition of the International Chili Society (ICS) Oct. 11-13 in Palm Springs, Calif.
“This is the third time I’ve qualified for world,” Rives said Monday, Aug. 5. He won the state championship for red chili in 2008 and 2009 as well.
“We had some stiff competition this year,” Rives said.
Rives has been cooking chili competitively or 20 years. He got started at a festival in Hannibal and then branched out to Clarksville, winning a district championship year in 1993.
Rives does it, “just for the fun.” He and his partner, Mary Cannon, travel around to various chili competitions.
“It’s like a band of gypsies who have turned into good friends,” Rives said of fellow competitors.
Henry Stephens of Lake Horn, Miss., was the Mississippi state champion in red chili earlier this year “and soon to be Missouri state champion in green,” he said prophetically just before judging on Aug. 3.
By also winning a salsa competition earlier this year, Stephens now has the hat trick for ICS competitions by winning salsa, red and green child contests in his rookie season.
There is also an “Anything Goes” category at chili cook-offs but that is just done for fun and not for state or national awards. Stephens won that as well Aug. 3 in Clarksville.
Stephens has been competitively cooking for only four months but loves it. He also wants honesty from his consumers.
“The worst thing you can do to a cook is tell him it’s good when you don’t like it,” Stephens said while turning his green chili. “It it too spicy or too hot? I want to know.”
The event was sponsored by Raintree Arts Council. a non-for-profit organization to provide arts and programs for Pike and Lincoln counties.
The rhythm and blues band Everyday People, of St. Louis, provided the music.
Chili contest organizer Linda Blakey said there were contestants from Ohio, Wisconsin, Iowa, Indiana, Arkansas, Illinois and Missouri at the cook-off.
Nine-time world champion Jim Weller, of Bloomfield, Mich. will go to the world championship this year. He and his wife have been in 44 states cooking chili competitively just this year.
“We do it because it’s something we can do together,” Weller said. “I’ll be 72 this year and this is what I do to stay competitive.”
The top finisher in salsa, red and green chili at the Clarksville event qualifies for the world championship. They were:
Red Chili: first place, George Rives. Eolia; second place , Bob Hall, Taylorville Ill.; third place, Nick Goresch, Chamberburg, Ill.
Chili Verde: first place, Henry Stephens, Lake Horn, Miss.; second place, Tom Hoover, Columbus, Ohio, third place, Lloyd Weir, Normal, Ill.
Salsa: first place, Nick Groesch Chambersburg Ill.; second place Robin Seuferer, Iowa; third place Roy Tobey, Bebee Ark.
Anything Goes: first place, Henry Stephens, Lake Horn, Miss.; tie for second place, Larry Wright, St. Charles, George Rives, Eolia.