Wednesday, December 7, 2022

Chili for a cause: Billsburg hosts cook-off to benefit this nonprofit

The Billsburg Brewery at the James City County Marina held their grand opening Friday. (Steve Roberts, Jr./WYDaily)
The Billsburg Brewery at the James City County Marina held their grand opening Friday. (WYDaily file photo)

A dozen local restaurants will be pitting their chili against one another for bragging rights and in support of a charitable cause.

Billsburg Brewery will be hosting its first Chili Cook Off Nov. 20. Tickets are available at the door, and paying guests will get to sample chili from each of the entrants and cast a vote for their favorite.

The money they spend will benefit the Alzheimer’s Association Southeastern Virginia Chapter.

“This is something that’s near and dear to me. I have a family member going through dementia right now,” Billsburg owner Dave Baum said. “For us to take our business and turn it into a platform to raise money and awareness for Alzheimer’s and dementia, I can’t think of a better way to start the holidays.”

The Chili Cook Off is in support of the Alzheimer’s Association’s The Longest Day, a fundraiser that culminates on the Summer Solstice each year. Gino Colombara, Alzheimer’s Association Southeastern Virginia Chapter executive director, described the event as a “do-it-yourself” fundraiser, in which participants set their own goals to draw donations and raise awareness.

Colombara, for example, said he hiked Mount Rogers – the highest point in Virginia – to raise funds as part of The Longest Day.

He said he’s excited that he’ll only need to eat and judge chili for Billsburg’s fundraiser.

“I love chili so I am looking forward to it,” Colombara said. “That was an easy, ‘Yes.’

Colombara is on the panel of judges who will award one restaurant with a “Best in Show” trophy for best chili. Other panelists include Scott Grafton of Ironbound Gym, Del. Mike Mullin, and chef Ken Brown from Fat Tuna Grill.

The “People’s Choice 1st Place” award will be given to the restaurant who draws the most votes from cook off guests, which will be cast in the form of purple poker chips placed in front of the restaurant’s station.

Each restaurant has submitted a recipe and Baum says guests can expect a wide variety of tastes to sample. Some chili will be made with braised beef, others with barbecue brisket, and another with chicken. One restaurant is considering making their chili with seafood, and two vegetarian chili options will be entered into the cook off.

“The awesome thing was the response from these guys,” Baum said of the participating restaurants. “They know it’s the week of Thanksgiving. It’s their busy time.”

Each of the restaurants will donate a gift package that will be given away in a raffle. One-hundred percent of the proceeds of the raffle and event tickets will be given to the Alzheimer’s Association, as well as a portion of beer sales for the evening, Baum said.

He added he hopes to see 300 or more guests at the Chili Cook Off.

“(With) Events like this, it’s really about creating community,” Colombara said. “So many people feel alone navigating this disease and they don’t realize there’s a community of support surrounding them.”

Colombara said the Southeastern Virginia Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association engaged 7,100 people last year, including patients and their families, through Alzheimer’s education, early-stage care and support groups. The number of people who participated in such programs increased by 110 percent over the previous year.

“That just speak to the urgency of the cause and how many people are dealing with it,” Colombara said.

The Alzheimer’s Association also offers consultations, respite care, safety services, events and a 24-7 support line (800-272-3900), all of which are free for families, caregivers and patients to use.

The Southeastern Virginia Chapter has 12 dedicated staff members, with two stationed in the Williamsburg branch at McClaw’s Circle, Colmbara said. Given the chapter covers more than 700 square miles, they are heavily reliant on their volunteers for day-to-day operations and the community to raise awareness and funding.

“We can’t do what we do alone,” Colombara said. “It takes community partnerships to make it happen.”

The list of participating restaurants:

Want to go?

  • Where: 2054 Jamestown Road, Williamsburg
  • When: Tuesday, Nov. 20, 6–8 p.m.

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