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Westport Serves Up Chilifest For Super Bowl Sunday

Organizer Jim Keenan holds one of the three first-place trophies that will be awarded at this year's Chilifest.
Organizer Jim Keenan holds one of the three first-place trophies that will be awarded at this year's Chilifest. Photo Credit: Salvatore Trifilio

WESTPORT, Conn. -- For the past six years, thousands flocked to Norwalk on Super Bowl Sunday to attend one of New England’s biggest food festivals: Chowdafest.

However, after Chowdafest was moved to October, many may be scrambling to find new plans to fill the day before the big game on Feb. 1.

So organizer Jim Keenan decided it was time to bring back Chilifest -- a onetime chili cook-off held in October 2011 that was almost crippled by a “freak snowstorm.” This year's event will be served up in Westport.

“There is a die-hard chili contingency that loves it and go all over the place for it,” Keenan said of the more than 500 chili fans who “dodged downed wires and trees” in 2011 to make it to the event that year.

Chilifest, much like its sister event, is a culinary competition among chefs of local restaurants. This year’s event will be held in Westport and will feature chefs from 12 local restaurants from Greenwich to New Haven.

Chef Ryan McGuire of Fairfield’s Local Kitchen and Beer Bar told the Daily Voice on Monday that many chefs’ fascination with the cold-weather comfort food lies in chili’s close tie to their culinary roots.

“I love chili, it was basically one of the first things I ever started cooking,” McGuire said, reminiscing on times when he would help his mother in the kitchen while growing up. Keenan added that many of Chilifest’s competitors tell similar stories.

The second-ever Chilifest comes with a new twist as well. In its 2011 inaugural year, Chilifest featured two categories, classic beef and creative. This year, with help from sponsors such as Local Kitchen, Chilifest is adding a third category for local firefighters.

In total, six local fire departments -- Fairfield, Norwalk, Trumbull, Weston, Westport and Wilton -- will be represented in that category.

Mark da Silva, owner and Brewmaster of Southport Brewing Company, said he’s most excited about supporting the local fire departments.

“I think it’s a great cause, to tell you the truth, for helping out local fire departments and firefighters it’s awesome,” da Silva said. “It’s a great community event.”

Chilifest also benefits the Turtle Shell Fund, which seeks to promote the education of young people in art, music, theater and skilled crafts.

The even will be held at Bedford Middle School in Westport from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Feb. 1.

Tickets to can be purchased online at www.Come2Chilifest.com until Jan. 31 for $10 for adults and $5 for children. Tickets purchased the day of the event will go for $15.

Competing restaurants include Black Cat Grille of Redding, Boat Yard BBQ and Grill of Stamford, Bobby Q's of Westport, Cask Republic of New Haven and Stamford, Chef's Table of Fairfield, Chilibomb of Fairfield, Geronimo's of Fairfield and New Haven, Liquid Lunch of Milford and Shelton, Little Pub of Greenwich, Ridgefield and Wilton, Naked Greens of Norwalk and Wilton, Simply Delicious of Norwalk and Southport Brewing Co. of Branford, Milford and Southport.

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