Bowl maker Buchanan part of winning team

Local potter Carl Buchanan is used to making the keepsake bowls that people use at the Magnolia State Bank Chili Cook-off. But the eighth annual cook-off was extra special because he was recognized for what was in the bowls, too.

Buchanan was part of the team Ring of Fire, which was the judges’ choice for Best Traditional Chili. Fat Kid Rock was selected for the Best Home-style Chili on a cool, sunny Saturday in downtown Laurel. Organizers called it a sheer success, with record-breaking attendance and participation.

“My favorite part of this event is always the atmosphere,” said Buchanan. “Getting the opportunity to cook with everyone and taste all the hard work is a great feeling. It’s an unexpected win, but we all feel really happy about going home with the trophy.”

Both winning teams went home with $1,000, a trophy and a handmade chili bowl by Buchanan.

At 6 a.m., the 29 teams started setting up and were given one hour to decorate their tent before food prep. The event opened to the public at 11 a.m., with Rock 104 providing the tunes, and the judging began at 3 p.m.

This year’s judges were:

• Sherri Marengo, a DJ and community relations director in Hattiesburg;

• Randy Holland, a sales manager and life member of the Laurel Sertoma Club;

• Roxanne Dunn, who has experience is culinary arts and works with chef John Diggetts at The Loft in Laurel; 

• Andy MacDonald, who is an award-winning journalist as the cuisine editor for weekly newspaper Lagniappe in Mobile, Ala.

Mayor Johnny Magee wished everyone a “Happy Chili Cook-off” before the announcement of the winners.

Kid Fat Rock was a team made up of Kim and Blaine Holifield, and Jeff and Tina Barrett. Joining Buchanan on the Ring of Fire team were Dr. Hoss Nasajpour, Russ Griffin, Adam Sauls and Paul Read.

Team Free Chili (Exchange Club) won the People’s Choice award and the Molar Mafia (Ellis Walters Dental Clinic) was selected Most Spirited. In the Traditional style, second place went to Three Amigos and third went to Chili Ray Cyrus. In the Home-style category, Chili Wild was second and Mo’ Smoke was third. Second-place winners got $300 cash and a Buchanan bowl.

Attendees could purchase a $10 tasting cup or a $25 ticket that comes with a bowl that was made by Buchanan.

Wic Smith from Jackson traveled down to Laurel for the weekend to attend his first chili cook-off, and he was impressed.

“It exceeded my expectations and everyone has been so welcoming,” he said. “I will definitely be in attendance at next year’s and might even participate in the contest.”

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