LAKEHURST – Kathy Abrahamson has her opinion on what makes a good chili.
“I am not one for really super spicy foods, so I look for the chilis that aren’t real hot and that have a nice flavor. I like meat chilis,” she said at the 10th annual Soup-R-Bowl of Chili Challenge. “But the people who like hot will judge it that way.”
Six contenders competed to win over Abrahamson and dozens of others at the challenge, held on Jan. 27 at the community center. The Lakehurst Historical Society, which sponsors the event, went up against the Lakehurst Elementary PTA, Lakehurst Volunteer Fire Company, Lakehurst First Aid Squad, AristaCare at Manchester and Fleet Reserve Association 124.
Noticeably absent was the usual seventh contender and judge’s and people’s favorite, Lakehurst Police. Sgt. Iain James was away on vacation, his priorities jokingly questioned by several participants.
Chili and soup winners get bragging rights and a traveling trophy they keep until the next challenge, held every year before the Big Game. Winners’ names and winning years are engraved on the trophy for posterity. The winner of judge’s choice, best overall soup or chili, gets a trophy to keep.
This year the historical society decided to award ribbons for second- and third-place winners as well.
The secret panel of judges – “Who everyone knows,” Abrahamson said – awarded best overall to the Lakehurst Vol. Fire Company. Abrahamson’s son, Justin, collected the trophy, which led to jests from the audience that the judging was fixed.
The fire company walked away with three awards in total this year: judge’s choice, second place for soup and third for chili. Fire company vice president Edward Hawley Jr. said the recipes were new for this year.
“This was our first time doing a soup, which is amazing that we won in a bunch of different areas. I’m happy how everything came out. It’s actually my mom’s recipe,” Hawley said.
His perfect chili is a mix of a lot of ingredients “and a lot of heart.” Their award-winning chili was simmered for 14 hours to perfection. Yet even with all the award-winning recipes, the company will likely use different recipes next year.
“We try to change it up a little every year, because you never know what everyone’s going to like. Everyone has different tastes,” Hawley added.
First-place people’s choice chili award went to the Lakehurst Elementary PTA. They entered a new contestant this year, Michael Thomas. He brought his original barbecue chicken chili, which went through four batches before he declared it just right.
“The chili is very good and very different, and that’s what I like,” Thomas said. Even before his trophy collected any dust, he was asked to represent the PTA next year. Will he bring something different?
“I’m going with the tried and true. There’s no reason to stop with something that’s well in motion right now. People have complimented my chili, so I’m good.”
Fleet Reserve took second place for their chili.
First place people’s choice soups went to AristaCare Cooking Club. The Historical Society placed third.
Money raised from the challenge benefits the Lakehurst Historical Museum, located at 300 Center St.
“We use the money that we raise to benefit the museum, so any bills that get paid, or anything that we need to do for the museum, all the money goes to the museum,” Abrahamson said.
The Lakehurst Historical Society Museum is housed in the old St. John’s Church, the first Roman Catholic church in Ocean County. The museum houses memorabilia mostly from Lakehurst, but also Joint Base Maguire-Dix-Lakehurst.
“We’re more than just the Hindenburg.”