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The 1st Upton Cheyney Chilli Cook-off

Saturday, 8 September 2012 - 10:00am

The Chilli Cook-off from the competitor's perspective from the lovely Chilli Widow's Blog....

Our alarm went off for 5.30am, the car was already packed with tent and the equipment we needed for the chilli cook off my hubby had entered us into. Slipping into my little mexican number took minutes although I did drag my heels over wolfing the first cup of tea down. Setting off we drove through a dense fog although in places the sun was desperately trying to break through.

The Chilli hunter ( my chilli mad husband) had planned everything meticulously to see us arrive for 8am to set up our cooking area ready for our very first cook off competition to be held at the The 4th Upton Cheney Chilli Festival 2012 on the 8th September. Clockwork Chipotle were on their way!

We actually arrived at the farm at 8.08am  to be greeted by Jon Doody and his good lady wife who directed us to any of the empty tables provided and began to set up our cooking area. Chilli Hunter resplendent in Sombrero and a very mexican moustache ( my revenge for him insisting I wear a frilly dress ) prepared  the smoker for our smoked ribs to be cooked on and I dressed up our stall. All proceeds of the cook off tasting were to go to CLIC Sargent which is the UK's leading charity for children who have cancer. Spoons would be sold and anyone holding a spoon was able to get a sample of each of the chillies cooked on site for the cook off after the 2pm deadline.

I have to say that my frilly dress appeared to be well accepted by all and it was fun to be taking part in something that was raising money for such a fabulous charity and so The Chilli Hunter and I embraced the atmosphere of the day and cooked our socks off.

The sun came out with the opening of the doors to the public at 12 noon by which time I was happily sipping on some Cranberry perry and stirring the chilli to prevent burning. Chilli Hunter was keeping a watchful eye over both myself and the ribs smoking away on the smoker. Chilli hunter also found time to wander around the other competitors to chat with them and to purchase several new bottles of sauce to taste and review on his own blog. We answered questions about our choice of ingredients by curious visitors and at 2pm after carefully dispensing a portion of our lovingly cooked chilli ( The Podfather) into our judges container which the chilli hunter then took off for judging I began to put out little taster pots. We'd been given over 100 small containers to hand out our tasters to people who had purchased a spoon and at 2.01pm I began to give out tasters of our chilli to those folks who held up a spoon. The queue was amazing and within 15 minutes our cook pot was totally empty resulting in a lot of disappointed people who'd wanted to taste all of the chillies cooked. To those people I can only apologise that we didn't have an unlimited supply but have to say a HUGE thank you as the total raised was just under £450 which is an awesome result. Thank you to everyone who purchased a spoon and a big thank you to those who took part and donated their chillies for this to take place!

The organisation of the whole day was very efficient with Alex Duck and his good lady wife being seen all over the site working feverishly to keep bins emptied and acts on stage at the correct time. Thank you both for a really fab festival. We attended last years as visitors and this year was bigger and better by far. The happy faces of children playing on inflatable slides , various swings ,roundabouts and fun castle was great to see. Little faces painted as tigers, butterflies and various other things could been seen every where. They even provided activities for the 'big children' with belly dancers and mud wrestling which I'm told went down very well with the male fraternity especially. There were punch & Judy shows and live bands on stage, a mad chilli eating contest at 4pm as well as too many stalls to mention selling anything from chilli jewellery, ceramics, oils and the inevitable chilli sauces to seeds to grow your own chilli plants. Matt Simpson of Simpson seeds was seen carrying tables at one point and also pushing a wheel barrow. Not sure what that was about but he pushed it well .

I did eat a particularly gorgeous strawberry cup cake that knocked the socks off any I've eaten previously. A raffle held at the start of the chilli eating contest saw a giant chilli cupcake up for grabs made by the same lady. A work of art in itself! I also sampled a taster of a chocolate custard tart which was a melt in the mouth gorgeous experience and I shared with Chilli Hunter a sample of three lovely chinese hand made dumplings offered by Ming Li's Kitchen which were lovely little morsels and a new experience for me.

The chilli cook off ,as previously said, was judged at 2pm and we came a creditable 4th with a tie for 2nd spot and the royal Q pit crew who had previously claimed 1st spot at the Reading chilli cook off taking 1st spot too. A very hard act to beat. I sadly didn't get to try their chilli so maybe next year a small bowl can be put to one side for competitors to try each others. The friendliness of all competitors it has to be said was second to none and all mingled and chatted through out the competition. The daytime part of the festival finished at 5pm with the evening's events beginning at 7pm and we'd made some new friends and had a blast!. The cranberry perry played a large part in keeping me hydrated and so the following two hours of putting up a tent proved humorous whilst chilli hunter worked out how to transport a hot bowl of coals from the chilli cook off site upto the camping area. I think he melted the inner roof of the car. It will smell of coals and cooking ribs for weeks no doubt

Having put up tent and slipped out of the frilly dress into jeans and a top I felt a little more 'me' as we walked down the road to try out the evening event. A first for both myself and the Chilli hunter. The security guys had been brilliant all day and were waiting to give us entry into the farm yard. The food stalls were still cooking up a storm and I partook of a fabulous pulled pork sandwich although i did wish I'd been able to force down a fajita as they looked fabulous. Alex Duck was once again busying himself in all manner of ways and I observed him carrying barrels of cider to replenish stocks in the bar amongst other things. There was a live band playing in the fabulous old Tithe barn with disco lighting and seated area outside under marquees lit by up lighters which gave it a lovely atmosphere. The crowds of folks who were seated around this area or standing were all thoroughly enjoying the various ciders and ales on offer and I particularly enjoyed one of the mojitos made with fresh slices of lemon, mint leaves and Redwolf Vodka. It was an absolute taste bud delight and I'll be back for more of them next year however I am wondering if a small ski lift type affair can be rigged up to get me up to the camping field after the evening event as that walk back UP the road had my feet burning and chilli hunter close to a heart attack. We giggled from bottom to the top however and the evening event just topped off a fabulous day for us both.

All in all this festival was bigger and better by far from last years which both myself and the chilli hunter had previously enjoyed. Being part of it made it quite special but the organisation ,planning and sheer hard work that goes into producing such a fab festival is a credit to Alex and his Wife and also (for the chilli cook off)  by Jon Doody and his Wife. The security guys really were fabulous with the staying power of ox I reckon and the bar staff were never seen without a smile on their face as they served up drink after drink. The whole day was set off by the glorious weather which really helped bring in the crowds and added to the whole feel of the festival. So a huge thank you to everyone mentioned and to all those I haven't for giving Chilli hunter and myself a wonderful memory to look back on. We'll be back next year for sure!!

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