by Susan Ellis
Saturday’s Chillin’ on Broadway in West Memphis will include a chili-cooking contest sanctioned by Chili Appreciation Society International (CASI).
Tana Jones, a member of CASI, will serve as the organization’s official referee for the event, making sure that its rules are being followed. She’ll also be competing.
“It’s just fun,” says Jones, who’s been active in chili-cooking-contest circuit for 25 years and considers other competitors her “second family.”
For CASI-sanctioned events, the chili must be cooked entirely on-site. The meat cannot be marinated and there cannot be fillers, such as beans.
“It comes down to spices,” Jones says, pointing out that the one person who’s won back-to-back titles in CASI’s main event, Terlingua International Chili Championship, held in Texas each year, grew the plants to make her own spices.
Winners of Saturday’s contest will receive plaques, but what they’re really after are the precious points they need to qualify for Terlingua.
Jones has two points and needs four more in order to get to Terlingua.
“I’ve found if I just cook it and leave it alone — go talk and meet the other competitors — I do a whole lot better.”