State chili cook-off returns this weekend to Olympia Farmers Market

The Olympia Farmers Market will host the annual state championship chili cook-off Saturday.

The event is organized by the Puget Pod of the Chili Appreciation Society International, known as CASI. Up to 15 cooks will compete for chili supremacy in two categories - homestyle and CASI style. The latter refers to a Texas-type variety that contains only meat and sauce, with no beans or veggies. However, with homestyle chili, anything goes when it comes to ingredients.

Lacey resident Ross Lunbeck won the CASI category at last year’s state championship, and finished second in the homestyle category. Lunbeck said each contestant cooks about a gallon of each style. Saturday’s event will mark Lunbeck’s fourth cook-off so far in 2014, he said.

“This year I’ve slowed down,” said Lunbeck, eager to retain his title.

The public can taste chili samples starting at noon Saturday (Aug. 9) at the market, located at the north end of Capitol Way. Cost is $5 for unlimited samples. Proceeds benefit Friends of Olympia Farmers Market.

Ken Peach, president of the local CASI chapter, said the competition’s judges include Olympia Mayor Stephen Buxbaum. He also said Olympia is the perfect place for this event.

“If it’s the state championship, it should be in the capital,” said Peach, also known as “Great Pepper” of the local CASI chapter.

To learn more, visit www.pugetpodcasi.us or email kkmpeach@aol.com.