Tribal Government & News

Chili today: Housing holds employee cook-off

11.14.2019 Danielle Frost Housing, Tribal employees
Housing Department Homeownership Coordinator Michele Plummer and Housing Department Secretary Myranda Bradshaw taste samples during a chili contest held at the Tribal Housing office on Thursday, Oct. 31. (Photo by Timothy J. Gonzalez/Smoke Signals)

By Danielle Frost

Smoke Signals staff writer

The Tribe’s Housing Department staff members are known for their love of cooking and food. It isn’t unusual to see them gathered together during various holidays and special occasions to enjoy goodies.

On Oct. 31, the department took it up a notch by hosting a chili cook-off with five Tribal employees contributing recipes. They were Housing Maintenance Coordinator Lonnie Leno, Housing Administrative Program Manager Joan Dugger, Home Improvement Coordinator Don Coon, Police Officer James Flynn and Maintenance Technician Edward Denim.

Dugger came up with the idea for a friendly competition among staff.

“I wanted to do something different to celebrate Halloween this year,” she said. “All I had to do was ask, and they signed up eagerly.”

Other Tribal staff members served as judges. Housing Department Manager Shonn Leno recused himself.

“I’m not a true chili eater,” he confessed. “I’m more of a chili out of the can guy, definitely not a connoisseur. … We have some really good cooks employed here so I’m eager to see who wins.”

No chili cook-off would be complete without sides, so attendees also enjoyed pizza, cornbread, Fritos and an array of desserts. To accompany the dining, Stephen King’s “It” played on a TV in the background.

Chili cooks could be heard discussing their creations, which ranged from “out of the box,” “a secret ingredient” and “experimental.”

Planning Director Rick George was one of the first taste testers in line followed by Tribal Police Chief Jake McKnight.

The different chili creations were simply numbered one through five to prevent testers from being swayed by who created it.

“Number two was definitely the best,” George said. “It was hot and spicy, with a lot of afterburn.”

Officer Clint Cardwell preferred the more mild flair of chili number five.

“It had some good heat to it, but wasn’t burning my mouth,” he said. “There was good flavor. I’m a picky eater, so if I like it, then it must be good.”

The winners were announced after 15 minutes of taste testing. First place was awarded to Coon with his bacon and cheese chili, marked number three.

“I just threw something together to take part,” he said. “But the secret is the bacon. It makes everything taste better.”

Flynn earned second place with spicy elk chili, marked number two.

“I wouldn’t have entered if I didn’t think I would win,” he said.

Both Flynn and Coon received Visa gift cards for their efforts, which can be spent anywhere, including the grocery store if they want to cook more chili.