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Chili-cooking couple keeps things spicy

Kenny Kemp
Husband and wife Scott and Maureen Barrett, of Chicago, are competing against each other in the World's Championship Chili Cook-off held in Charleston this year. Maureen was named the world champ in 2009.
Kenny Kemp Kim Graham, of Charleston, tries green chili Saturday afternoon at the World's Championship Chili Cook-off held on Magic Island.
Kenny Kemp Hundreds of chili chefs competed on Magic Island Saturday in the World's Championship Chili Cook-off. The event continues Sunday.
Kenny Kemp Camron Nice, 2, and his sister Gwendolyn, 4, of South Charleston, play at the World's Championship Chili Cook-off.
Kenny Kemp Bill Donovan, of Cincinnati, talks to guests at his booth at the World's Championship Chili Cook-off.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Maureen Barrett likes to keep her competition close.

She and her husband Scott competed side-by-side at The World's Championship Chili Cook-off at Magic Island in Charleston on Saturday.

The Chicago couple has been married for nearly 30 years, and cooking chili for 16 of them.

"We have completely different recipes and different styles of cooking but we both focus on studying our spices and using the right peppers," Maureen said.

"She's a little more precise than I am," Scott said.

"He just throws it all in there," Maureen said.

Maureen was named the world champ in 2009 for her red chili recipe. That's when she changed her name from "Maureen's almost famous chili" to "Maureen's now famous chili."

"If Scott ever tries to tweak my recipe, I can always remind him that I'm the world champ," she said.

"She's still talking about it," Scott said as he laughed and shook his head.

Hundreds of chili chefs from all over filled Magic Island over the weekend to compete for the $25,000 grand prize for the best red chili, which will be announced Sunday.

This is the second time the worldwide competition, hosted by the International Chili Society, has been held in Charleston, and will head to Palm Springs, Calif. next year.

"We love it here on the riverfront. We've made great friends," said George Lott, who made the trip from Peublo, Colo. "We've been cooking with a lot of these people for years and years."

Lott says the secret to great chili is finding the right balance.

"You've got to kick it up a notch, but it can't be so hot that people can't eat them," he said.

Charleston native Phillip Majestro, who competed in the national competition for the first time this year, says his secret is quality ingredients.

"You've got to really dedicate some time to deciding what you put in your chili. I even order some ingredients online and have them shipped here," he said.

Bob Hall, of Taylorville, Ill., won the contest for best green chili on Saturday, and was rewarded a $4,000 prize.

The winner of the red chili competition will be announced Sunday and will win a grand prize of $25,000.

Just down the road from the cook off, more than 800 vintages cars line Kanawha Boulevard as the annual Rod Run and Doo Wop also hit Charleston this weekend.

Paul Liptok, a two-time Rod Run trophy winner, showed off his 1967 Chevelle Convertible SS on Saturday and even shutdown offers to buy it.

"I can't sell it. My dad traded it for a mini bike and $250 in the '80s, and we've spent a lifetime rebuilding it. It was pretty much junk," he said.

Three generations of Liptok men were at the car show on Saturday. Reese, 14, showed his 1994 Camaro.

"He enjoys it but he's not as crazy about it as me yet. I'm sure that'll change once he's old enough to drive," Liptok said about his son. "There is so much to see here. Anything you can dream up -- it's here."

Reach Mackenzie Mays at mackenzie.mays@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5100.


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