The Food Guy, Steven Keith Eating his way through the state, plate by plate

Bean Me Up, Scotty! Anything Goes in this Chili

If you’ve always been one to snub your nose at all those “official” rules governing sanctioned chili cook-offs – No beans! No filler! No ground beef! – have I got a contest for you.

Charleston’s 14th Annual Smoke on the Water Chili Cook-off next Saturday along Kanawha Boulevard at Haddad Riverfront Park has added a new “Homestyle Chili” category this year in which anything goes. (If you like beans in your chili, bean that pot up!) Better still, Homestyle is now an official International Chili Society (ICS) cooking category, so that winner here not only scores $500 but also advances to the ICS World Championship Chili Cookoff in Charleston in October.   

This is the first year for Homestyle and the rules are less restrictive than they are for other cooking categories: red chili, verde chili and salsa. Homestyle is defined by ICS as “the cook’s favorite combination of ingredients resulting in a dish seasoned with chili peppers and spices.”  That’s it – there are no restrictions or requirements as to what ingredients do or don’t go in. The only rules are that the chili must be homemade and cooked entirely on site the day of the cook-off, with a minimum of two gallons prepared. The entry fee for the new category is $20.

“The Homestyle Chili competition is a great way for folks who may not have competed in a chili cook-off before to get started,” said Jennifer Piercy Igo, chair of the Smoke on the Water planning committee.  “People can cook the same kind of chili they cook at home, or they can get really creative and use non-traditional ingredients,” she said.

For more information about Smoke on the Water and the Homestyle Chili category, contact Jennifer Piercy Igo at (304) 553-3125 or To compete in the Smoke on the Water Chili Cook-off, cooks need to register online at the ICS website here.

I’m sure I’ll take some heat for this – “Who does this guy think he is, telling me what I can and can’t drink!?” – but New York mayor Michael Bloomberg is my new BFF now that he’s on a crusade to ban Big Gulps in the Big Apple.

I’m all for freedom of choice, but if the choices people make are killing them why SHOULDN’T someone step in to try to stop them. If you saw someone hurt on the side of the road, would you really drive on by saying, “Well, it’s really not my place …”

For those who haven’t heard, Bloomberg made a splash when he announced he was proposing an unprecedented ban on super-large sodas and other sugary drinks at the city’s restaurants, delis, sports arenas and movie theaters. Concerned about our nation’s growing obesity epidemic, he wants the city to limit those drinks to 16 ounces max – an amount that used to be “large” but is now considered “small” in a world of Big Gulps, Super Big Gulps, Double Gulps, Super Double Dog Dare Gulps.


We’re carrying around vats of soda – each containing something like 37,0700 calories and a 5-pound bag of sugar – and yet we wonder why we keep getting thicker in the middle.


If a 16-ounce soda – a full bottle of pop … a quarter of a giant 2 liter, for goodness sake – here’s a novel idea. Drink some water.

You go, Michael. It’s an uphill battle, but one that needs fought and won.