Cooler weather brings stews, chowders and chili, all of which were up for sampling at Salvation Army's second Kettle Cook-Off on Saturday on Newberry Street.
Thirteen local organizations and businesses came out to show off their cooking skills. People then could come by, sample the slow cooker treats and contributed as much money as they wished to the organizations' kettles, said Capt. Angela Repass, director of Aiken County's Salvation Army.
At the end, the establishment whose kettle contained the most money won a prize package with items such as Steeplechase tickets, gift certificates and coffee mugs. A second-place winner will also be decided, with prizes such as a cookbook from Aiken Dried Goods.
The Mommy & Me Missions table served Thai Beef Curry, a beef stir fry mixed with coconut milk and red curry.
“I tried a couple of things. I did the taste-testing on my children, and this was their favorite,” Jennifer Bhurd of Mommy & Me, a 2-year-old organization aimed at teaching children the value of serving, said. “So that's why I chose this one.”
Bhurd was at the cook-off with her husband, John, and daughters Alex, who was working another one of the Mommy & Me booths, and Libby, who was bouncing at the bounce houses provided at the event.
Mommy & Me was also selling baked goods this year and attended the cook-off last year with a Pork Posole dish.
The winner last year was Aiken County Solicitor Strom Thurmond Jr. with his chicken stew.
This year, David Miller with Aiken County Solicitor's Office and his wife Chrissey, who works with the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, were there to hopefully win again.
“What was that saying from that guy,” Chrissey Miller said, looking toward her husband David Miller, “play to win the game.”
The Millers had in their Crock-Pot turkey molé, a Mexican-type dish with ingredients such as ancho chili peppers, tomatoes, almonds, cinnamon, cloves and, yes even, chocolate.
“It does well in the crockpot, and it's something a little bit unusual,” Chrissey Miller said. “Most people don't have chocolate as part of their main course. ... And turkey seemed Thanksgiving-like.”
Their daughter Gracey was with them, playing around the booth.
Other organizations and people in the contest included Silver Bluff Animal Hospital with its Mexican Chicken Chowder, Paula “KitchenAid” Bashner and David “Hotsauce” Stinson with their Wagmore Stew; Nance, McCants & Massey with its Beef Burgundy, and Jennifer Nalepa with her Chipotle Chili.
The Buffetts were just getting started on their taste-testing trip but had enjoyed everything they tried so far.
Matthew Buffett was volunteering his time with the band, while his wife Tara Buffett came out with the children Reagan and Madison, so they could enjoy the bounce houses.
Marilyn Buffett joined to assist Tara Buffett with the children and enjoy the day.
“It's great Aiken has a cook-off,” Marilyn Buffett said.
Refreshments other than the cook-off items included coffee from One Tree Coffee, boiled peanuts and macaroni and cheese.
The Salvation Army Brass band, the Southern Thunder Cloggers and a praise band performed.
In addition to the bounce houses, there was face painting, craft stations and corn hole.
Around this time last year, when Salvation Army started up its red kettle campaign, Repass wanted to do something original for the Aiken community.
“The red kettle campaign of the Salvation Army is the largest one-time fundraiser through the entire year, so we have always had a kick-off,” she said about the fundraiser which often involves representatives asking people to donate money into the red Salvation Army containers usually placed in front of businesses. “Every community does something different, and last year I decided I wanted to be something big. I wanted it to be something special, something different from the norm, so we came up with this idea. And this really kicks off the Christmas season for the Salvation Army.”
During Christmas, the local branch provides toys and food to hundreds of children and families.
All proceeds of the event went to local Salvation Army programs, such as its homeless shelter, soup kitchen, social services office and Boys & Girls Club.
“We are so thankful to the Aiken community and how they support us throughout the year but especially during this time of year,” Repass said. “And it's just an opportunity for everybody to show their Christmas spirit and be a shield for those in need.”