Hampton Bays Chili-Chowder Contest Hits 15 Years

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When Stan Glinka started the Hampton Bays Chili-Chowder Contest in 1998, he wanted to put together a fun, family friendly event that wouldn’t break the bank.Little did he know that, 15 years later, the tasty competition would evolve into one of the hamlet’s signature events.

Sponsored by the Hampton Bays Chamber of Commerce, this year’s contest will begin at noon on Sunday, September 22, at the Boardy Barn on West Montauk Highway. While the chili and chowders entered vary greatly from year to year, the event’s recipe for success has remained the same since its inception, said Mr. Glinka, president of the chamber and a candidate for Southampton Town Board.

“It’s really just a nice, family-friendly thing,” he said. “It’s affordable—and there aren’t that many affordable things for families to do together these days.”

The competition attracts chili and clam chowder chefs—both amateur and professional—and connoisseurs from throughout the town together for a day of sampling. Following blind taste tests by three judges, awards are given for the top finishers in both categories. First-, second- and third-place awards also are given for the fan favorites.

Mr. Glinka said many chefs and teams have come and gone over the years, thought there are a select few who have withstood the test of time. One such group is the Steamfitters Local 638 team, which is about to participate in its 11th competition. The father-and-son duo of Jim and Bruce Wilkie, along with the occasional guest, have been serving up their “Steamfitters Firing Inferno Chili” for the past decade, usually taking home at least a fan award each time, the younger Mr. Wilkie said.

Both father and son are steamfitters and have made use of their award-winning chili to stay warm on frigid days while fixing pipes, Bruce Wilkie said. He added that, contrary to its name, the chili isn’t too spicy.

“It’s not too hot—it’s just named that to stick with the theme,” he said. “I got the original recipe from a standard chili recipe and [added] a bunch of other stuff to it. The people seem to like it because they always vote for us unanimously.”

Bruce Wilkie said he’s earned a bit of celebrity status from the event, a role that he embraces. Mr. Glinka said he, too, has become somewhat synonymous with his keystone event.

“[People] identify me with the chili-chowder competition,” he said. “When they see me running around making announcements, that’s the first thing always ask me, ‘When’s the next chili-chowder?’”

Tickets will be sold at the door and are $10 for adults and $3 for children. Proceeds will support the chamber’s scholarship fund, which benefits college-bound Hampton Bays High School graduates.

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