Grand Canyon Rotary crowns annual chili champion

Rotary member Sue Winchester and Tusayan Mayor Greg Bryan dig into taste testing during Rotary Chili Cook Off. Loretta Yerian/WGCN

Rotary member Sue Winchester and Tusayan Mayor Greg Bryan dig into taste testing during Rotary Chili Cook Off. Loretta Yerian/WGCN

TUSAYAN, Ariz. - Taste testers at Big E Steakhouse had their taste buds prepped and ready as they decided who the new Chili champion of 2014 would be.

The 6th annual Chili Cook Off, put on by Grand Canyon Rotary Club drew in locals and visitors with its free taste testing and grand finale, revealing winners of this year's competition.

Yvonne Trujillo, secretary of the Rotary Club, handed out plastic spoons and cups for taste testers to use along with pieces of paper for them to cast their votes. Executive Chef Brandon Bettencourt of Big E Steakhouse and Executive Chef Matt McTigue and Sous Chef Mark Otto, from El Tovar restaurant determined who the winner was for three of the four divisions.

"It's all about finding a good balance between the taste and heat," said Chef McTigue.

For a third year in a row, ClayAnn Cook won the alternative chili division. Alternative chili included green, wild game, vegetarian, and chicken categories. Cook also won best cornbread.

The winner for the traditional entry went to Clarinda Vail.

The title of Chili Champion went to Ken Bender along with an apron declaring him champion.

"We do this every year, it's all free, we want to get the community together and enjoy tonight," said Trujillo.

Grand Canyon Rotary supports local schools and communities through scholarships and sponsoring students. This year the Rotary awarded four grants. ClayAnn Cook, President-elect of Rotary on the Rim, handed out this year's community grants. Three of the grants were presented to Grand Canyon School and one to Grand Canyon Community Church.

Carol Frischmann, a High School English teacher at Grand Canyon School will use the grant to help offset travel expenses in bring Native American storytellers to visit her classroom. The Math department said they will purchase new calculators for students and the P.E. department is purchasing new weights for strength and conditioning.

April Krombeen accepted the grant on behalf of Grand Canyon Community Church. She said the grant will be used in purchasing a new piano for the church.

"We are committed to serving our community," said Cook. "We are starting tonight with the young and then the older and everyone else."

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