Cooks were able to enhance their dishes to the best of their abilities at the chili cook-off.

Downtown Indiana and S&T Bank hosted a winter warm-up chili cook-off from 12–3 p.m. Saturday at Noble Stein Brewing Company. 

More than 100 people attended the event. 

There were 10 contestants who were competing to win for best chili, and out of the 10, five contestants also provided cornbread for the best cornbread contest. 

There were four judges, but the public also voted for their favorite chili and cornbread, too. 

The winners were Sandy Toy, owner of Sandy’s Custom Cuisine, for people’s choice and judge’s choice cornbread, and Ed Dunlap for people’s choice and judge’s choice for chili. 

Downtown Indiana and S&T Bank provided the bowls, spoons and napkins, while the contestants provided the chili and cornbread in their own crockpots and trays. 

This event was the first year Downtown Indiana has done a chili cook-off as a fundraiser and competition. 

Downtown Indiana is a nonprofit organization that works to promote the downtown business district, ensuring it is a vital center and part of the community. 

“We want to work to promote our beautiful downtown area,” said Linda Mitchell, executive director of Downtown Indiana. 

“The chili cook-off event is being hosted by Downtown Indiana and is sponsored by S&T Bank,” said Marshall Chriswell, treasurer of Downtown Indiana. “We put on a lot of events and do a lot of business promotion and advocacy. 

“S&T Bank is a very important partner with Downtown Indiana, is very involved within the community and sponsors several events throughout the year, including this event.”

The 10 chili contestants and the five cornbread contestants proudly displayed and handed out their food while mingling with people.  

“I’ve never joined a chili event before, and I’m just here to support Downtown Indiana,” Rose Strittmatter said. “I made a vegan and vegetarian chili.” 

Some of the contestants were there to see if they had the best chili or cornbread but also were there promoting their businesses. 

“We sponsor the event by donating the corn bread,” Russ Leap, owner of Leap’s Farm, said. “Our farm is a small grounds flours and cornmeal farm in Penn Run, Pa.”

“I think I’ve got a good chili enough to match it up with a lot of other wonderful chilis,” Toy said. “All contestants had to pay a registration fee. 

“If you did both chili and cornbread, it was a combo price. But it’s for the fundraiser, so it’s for a good cause.”

The winner of the people’s choice and judge’s choice best cornbread was also promoting her business. 

“Sandy’s Custom Cuisine. I customize my food and the displays to suit the best needs of guests and parties. We do a lot of office lunches and provide meals for office trainings. That’s where the bulk of where my business goes to. Everything is homemade and as much as possible is made from scratch.” 

Many contestants and the public found out about the event through social media. 

“I work at the café at the mall, and I make a lot of the chili there,” Shawna Montgomery of Clymer said. “So, staff there thought it was a good idea to come here for the day.”

A lot of the contestants were part of the Downtown Indiana committee. 

“I entered the contest because I’m involved in Downtown Indiana,” said Caleb McNany, executive chef at the Hilton Garden Inn. “I sit on one of the committees on the Oktoberfest. 

“I entered a carnitas chili verde green chili made with roasted pork. I just made a green chili to kind of be different. And the same thing with the blue cornbread. It’s ground from blue corn, but it’s a basic cornbread.”  

The contestants were glad they were able to support Noble Stein and local businesses in general. 

“It’s great to have community events like this where a lot of people come out and support us,” Anthony Martini said. “It’s exciting to see a local establishment have such popularity.” 

Many board members were eager to help with the fundraiser, but also show off their chili recipes. 

“I work with Downtown Indiana and participate on the board,” said Joe Kinter, executive committee member of Downtown Indiana. “I am invested in helping raise money for the organization. 

“This particular fundraiser, which involved food and beer, was kind of in my wheelhouse. I love chili and my mom makes a really good chili recipe. It was easy to justify participating in.”

One contestant was not from the area but participated in the event because she attends a lot of chili competitions. 

“I go to chili events all the time,” Bonnie Swartz of Mount Pleasant said. “I make my chili with beer, and I do it for the fun of it.” 

Winner of the people’s choice and judge’s choice best chili found out about the event through his wife. 

“My wife told me about the event,” Ed Dunlap of Homer City said. “She works for Indiana borough, and I meet with Linda and she announced it. 

“My chili is a chipotle chorizo chili with cilantro with peppers, corn and beans. It’s a little bit sweet up front, and then you get a spicy kick at the end.” 

Co-owner of Noble Stein loved the idea of hosting his business as the event’s location and having a chili and cornbread cook-off competition. 

“I think that this time of year especially begs for a really nice hearty type of food,” Zachary Morrow said.  “Everyone’s got a different take, which is super cool, and I think that chili and cornbread combines really well with our beer. 

“We have a lot of flavor profiles of beer just like many of the contestants have flavor profiles in their chilis. We love to support the community through hosting events like this. 

“Noble Stein has been affiliated with a lot of other events, whether it be the chili event or the support of the Oktoberfest. We are always happy to lend a hand, provide a venue and perhaps provide some refreshments.” 

Noble Stein is open Wednesday through Saturday, but hours vary. Visit Noble Stein’s website to see the specific hours of operation. 

They host Trivia Night from 7–9 p.m. every Thursday. Noble Stein doesn’t have a kitchen but does have food trucks frequently. 

Many people who came to the fundraiser enjoyed tasting the chili and drinking beer. 

“I came to attend the fun because I love Noble Stein’s beer and I figured beer and corn bread is a perfect combination,” Tiffany Weston said. “I heard about this event because my mom is a manager of CH Fields Craft Kitchen, one of the chili contestants, and she told me about it.”

“I heard about this fundraiser through a friend,” Betty Hovland said. “So far, I think all the chilis are really good. 

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