• John McGary, Woodford Sun Staff

HERE'S JOHNNY - No judgments, please


I’ve told lots of folks that most of the reasons I’ve stayed here so darn long involve the good people I work with and cover, but it is now time to confess there’s another reason:

Chili.

These words are being written hours after participating in Monday’s 14th annual Jack Kain Ford (JKF) Employee Chili Cook-off, for which I was a judge for the third consecutive year. If this is a more stupid column than usual, please remember that I tasted (and re-tasted) 13 different kinds of chili, then, just to be polite, consumed a post-contest bowl, a PB & J sandwich and dessert.

Hey, no one asks pythons to write columns after they’ve just swallowed a deer …

Joining me this year was the most illustrious list of chili judges with whom I have ever served: Versailles Mayor Brian Traugott, longtime WVLK-AM morning show host Jack Pattie, former UK quarterback and JKF “ambassador” Freddie Maggard, KET co-hosts Tim and Nicki Farmer and Woodford Ambulance Director Freeman Bailey.

We assumed Bailey was invited to provide CPR or a quick transport to a local hospital for judges who over-judged. Organizer Donna Sturgeon seemed to agree, saying, “It was either him or the coroner.”

We arrived at 11 a.m. and were greeted with milk, water, saltines and oyster crackers designed to cleanse the palate (though the very polite judge was observed putting oyster crackers in the last cup of chili). In front of us were judging sheets Sturgeon claimed were devised by the Texas Association of Chili Cook-Offs, though she later admitted she’d just found them on the internet. Nevertheless, they were very official-looking.

The categories were aroma, texture, color, taste and after-taste/bite. Scores were between one and 10, with 10 being the best. Sturgeon and former Woodford Sheriff Wayne “Tiny” Wright, now a JKF ambassador, brought us new cups of chili every 90 seconds or so and picked up the used cups. (I later learned that Tiny was also a contestant, but, to his credit, he didn’t wink when he delivered us his entry.)

The following comments were heard by a very polite judge too busy to take good notes:

“My sinuses are clear now.”

“I’ve still got that burn from number two.”

“We don’t have to be around anyone later, right?”

Mid-contest, Pattie suggested that after we finished, we should go to Gold Star Chili, but I’m pretty sure he was joking.

Farmer, the former host of the outdoor show “Kentucky Afield” and current co-host of “Tim Farmer’s Country Kitchen,” was probably over-qualified for the job. He said he was pretty sure that one of the chilies had venison.

I dunno about my fellow judges, but I didn’t give a score lower than eight. All of the chilies were good and 11 were exceptional.

Our work was done in 35 minutes or so and those of us who didn’t have pressing engagements or the ability to walk very far stayed on for the announcement of the winner. Pattie was heard to say, “I may need a little help down the stairs.”

We all needed help down the stairs, I think.

The judges were given gift bags, and one of them said the “Thank You” written on his might not prevent him from re-gifting it come Valentine’s Day.

While Sturgeon tallied the scores, Bob Kain announced the employee of the month and other JKF awards. He also introduced the judges, and while public television heartthrob Tim Farmer (who’d already left!) seemed to get the loudest applause, Kain introduced the longest-serving judge last, and no one booed me.

Fourteen-month-employee Robbie Cotney won the contest and, Kain said, by the largest margin in JKF Employee Chili-Cook Off history.

She told me her ingredients included Italian sausage and her mother’s special seasoning, the latter of which she would share no details.

I was uncomfortably full – python/deer full – but there’s no beating good company, free food, and food for thought (this column).

At the end of the day, a Dear Reader came to The Sun to drop off a bag full of frozen leftovers, but I won’t be thawing them out for at least a few days.

I’m very polite, but I’ve had quite enough chili for now.

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