By Cory Phare
What’s the first food that comes to mind when you think of the Centennial State?
“Chili is a natural fit for Colorado, and Roadrunners are competitive by nature, so we saw an opportunity to benefit a lot of folks here,” said Chef Jackson Lamb, whose Metropolitan State University of Denver catering class pulled off the inaugural School of Hospitality chili cookoff Feb. 27, National Chili Day.
Judges from the University’s Fire and Emergency Response Administration program in the Department of Human Services and Counseling weighed in on 10 competitors who whipped up batches of red, green and vegan chilis, pulling from family recipes. Proceeds from the event benefited the Children’s Hospital Burn Center by way of representatives from the Colorado Firefighter Calendar.
Additionally, the unserved food is being chilled and repackaged into more than 200 individual servings to be delivered to the Roadrunner Food Pantry to help address food insecurity among MSU Denver students.
“It’s great – you have students cooking food that ends up feeding other students and benefits the community,” Lamb said. “Plus, who better to judge chili than firefighters?”
Makala Schnablegger’s winning vegan recipe (featured in top image) was a red chili with quinoa, which with beans creates a complete protein for a healthy, filling option that balanced a subtle spice with sweetness from large, juicy chunks of tomato.
Following in the entrepreneurial footsteps of her mother – who runs a café at Copper Mountain, the Golden Burro in Leadville and Expressions in Icing, a cake-decorating business –Schnablegger hopes to have a food truck before going into restaurant-development consulting and menu-planning.
Her veggie-friendly recipe was an extension of her desire to create dishes that are delicious and nutritious.
“I wanted to make something I could eat (for the competition) and am excited by the ability to study plant-based cuisine here at MSU Denver,” she said. “I love surprising people with how good vegan food can be.”
For Daniel Hopkins, building a career in the kitchen is also a family affair, as his award-winning green chili was a variant on what they’ve been serving up at Danny’s Carnation Restaurant in Lakewood for a decade.
“When people taste the food you’ve made, when their eyes light up and you know you’ve touched them in a way that makes them feel like they’re home – that’s my favorite moment,” said the restaurant-management major.
That passion was palpable in the hearty mix of pork broth and pepper, thickened just enough with cornstarch to stand up on its own or make a delicious addition to a burrito or French fries.
And, as Hopkins noted, it’s the combination of those elements that helps make the final product greater than the sum of its parts.
“Comfort is a universal language that brings us together unlike anything else,” he said. “After all, we all eat.”
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