Chili cooks battle for supremacy at Crossroads Festival

CORINTH – The Regional Chili Cookoff in Corinth Saturday turned loving family members into rivals.
Nearly 20 chili cooks participated in the cookoff as a part of the Crossroads Festival. In only its second year, the Regional Chili Cookoff drew participants from as far as Taylorville, Ill.
Husband and wife competitors Mark and Linda Hurt drove seven hours from their home in Tolono, Ill., to compete. Even though he wanted to win the whole thing, Mark’s No. 1 goal was to beat his wife. Linda, the current Illinois state green chili champion and former Missouri state champion, has beaten her husband the past few contests they entered. But Mark, who also cooks a green chili, said he’s looking to change that trend.
“I’m going home with the win this time,” he said. “Or it’s going to be a long seven–hour ride home. She is a great cook and makes great chili, but I want to beat her this time. I make the best green chili in the house and this time it’s going to show. I’m going home the winner in the house.”

Chili Queen
Although she said she admired her husband’s confidence, Linda wasn’t worried. Known as the “Mean Green Chili Queen,” Linda said she was sure she’d be the one smiling on the way back home.
“I started cooking chili because I got tired of washing his dirty dishes,” she joked. “It’s fun to come to these competitions because we see the same people and it’s just fun. We have a good time competing against each other.”
Even though they aren’t married to one another, Jerry and Jill Simmons are still pretty close. The father and daughter chili adversaries made the trip from Memphis for the second straight time to prove which Simmons cooked the best chili. Jill beat her father last year by placing fifth and hopes to place higher than him this year as well.
“I’m going to win, which means I’m going to beat him,” said Jill as she watched her dad stir his chili. “He’s good, but I think I can beat him.”
Jerry is a two-time world chili champion, winning the crown in 2000 and then again in 2006.
“She’s a tough one to beat,” said Jerry. “She beat me last year, but I’m going to beat her this year.”
While the competitors were busy perfecting their chili for the judges, festival patrons bounced from booth to booth sampling. One name repeatedly came up when asked about good chili and that was that of the Chili Bandits – Kenny Phifer and Ryan Casabella.
The bandits had a hard time keeping sample cups because so many people were at their table.
“I’ve tasted a lot of chili today, but this is the best red chili I’ve had,” said Donna McNeal as she scarfed down her third small sample cup. “I like it because it’s all meat. I don’t like beans, so this is perfect. Best ever!”
One question that people kept asking was what is green chili.
According to Mark Hurt, green chili, or chili verde, is chili that is green pepper-based instead of tomato-based. Because there are no tomatoes or tomato sauce in it, chili verde is green in color and usually spicier.
“This is my first time having green chili and I like it,” said Sandra Davidson. “It has a good texture because of the chunks of meat as opposed to the ground meat used in traditional chili. I suggest you make sure you have water on hand if you eat green chili, but I’d definitely encourage people to try it.”
Chili wasn’t the only thing going on at the Crossroads Festival. A classic car show, a hot chili eating contest, music and more were available.
Carnival rides were also set up for the children, and various food vendors for those who weren’t in a chili mood.

Contact Danza Johnson at (662) 678-1583 or


Danza Johnson/Daily Journal

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