GRAFTON, Mass. - Chili is a stew that invites creativity and an occasional secret weapon.
During a local business chili “face-off” held Saturday, Sir Loin’s Butchery and Deli added venison to the pot, while Gourmet Creations, a local bakery, used pumpkin and chocolate (no it’s not a dessert chili, its surprisingly hearty). Goretti’s Supermarket stuck to the tried and true NFL Sunday recipe of ground beef, mushrooms, onion and a touch of heat.
Held at the North Grafton Shopping Center parking lot, there were nine competitors in all jockeying to take home a hot pepper shaped trophy, but the real winners were the Grafton Food Bank, who collected 100 percent of the entrance fee, and the local businesses who benefited from the exposure.
The event, sponsored by the North Grafton Business Association, was an effort to draw more commerce into the area. The strip malls on that block, which for a period were largely empty, is almost full. “If you look around you, there are many new shops that recently opened here,” said Mike Bishop who is part owner of Gourmet Creations. “Many of these businesses have joined together to support one another.”
Chili is serious business. Mark Gentile, a former owner of D-Errico-S, once located in Worcester, is one of the judges. He said he will vote for the one that is not afraid to be bold.
“I’m looking for consistency, but also something new that gives the chili texture and a unique flavor,” he said.
Other vendors included Danielle's Pub, Grafton American Legion Hall, Bridge Street Bistro, and Riverside Pizza based in Milbury.
Many participating were in a festive mood. The folks at the Danielle’s Pub booth wore colorful ponchos and sombreros, while someone else walked around dressed like a hot pepper.
At the end, the challenge was more successful than expected. Although admission to sample was $4, many handed much more when they learned the money went to the Grafton Food Bank.