By Mark Ambrogi
The Helmer Scientific Chili Cook-off is designed to be a friendly but hot competition.
The chili cook-off is held each year on National Chili Day, Feb. 23.
The contest will benefit the Mission to Ukraine, which supports the Romaniv Orphanage for disabled boys. Owner David Helmer has long supported the Mission to Ukraine.
The goal this year is to raise $5,000 for Mission to Ukraine’s capital campaign to raise funds to build a rehabilitation center for children with disabilities.
The chili cook-off started as an employee event in the engineering department but has since become a company wide initiative.
The first cook-off, in 2012, included seven pots of chili and a group of three judges.
“The event has continued to grow over the years,” said Angela Acrey, vice president of human resources. “Two years ago, we started to invite partners in the community. We invited our business partners and community partners.”
The 2016 event drew more than 40 entries with nine judges.
Three chili categories are offered: traditional, spicy or alternative. Winners are selected in categories, and a grand champion will be crowned. In addition, the entire company is invited to test each pot of chili and cast their vote for the People’s Choice Award.
Helmer employee Jared Owens is a three-time Grand Champion and a project manager for the cook-off. The Noblesville resident said the competition gets tougher each year with more entries.
“The chili cook-off is a unique opportunity to not only bring together our working community and business partners for a fun competition, but it also allows each of us to impact a group of very special boys and volunteers half-way around the world who are underserved and in desperate need of a higher quality of life,” Owens said. “This opportunity, like all of Helmer Scientific’s many generosity initiatives, leverages the talents of everyone involved and gives folks an opportunity to engage in a way that is comfortable to them, whether it’s cooking a pot of chili, planning the event, giving donations or just simply showing up to enjoy each other’s company. Each of us are empowered to influence and truly make a difference in the world beyond our own doorsteps, which is what motivates me to support the initiative.”
Owens said he rarely makes the same chili the same way twice.
“I just love to cook and experiment with ingredients, but have found that chili with a subtle smoke flavor is a crowd-pleaser,” he said.