Youngest contestant takes the cake
CHUGWATER – Every year, thousands of people gather in the quiet little town of Chugwater, Wyoming.
People come from miles and states away just to attend the Chugwater Chili Cook-off.
In 1986, five local farms and ranches purchased the Wyoming State Championship Chili Recipe and Chugwater Chili Corporation (CCC) was born. The purpose of CCC was to help local businesses in the community.
The cook-off is held on the third Saturday of June and it has become a popular event for all ages with cooking and baking contests, kids games, salsa tasting, live music, a car show, a ranch rodeo and of course, chili tasting.
“I heard the turnout was about 5,000 people,” Alyssa Wilmoth said.
Wilmoth participated in the chili contest along with her husband this year.
“We entered in the chili contest a few years ago,” Wilmoth added. “We skipped a few years due to that COVID-19 thing though.”
Their red chili placed eighth in the 2023 red chili category.
Wilmoth and her husband weren’t the only winners in the family this year.
“It really didn’t matter how we did,” Wilmoth explained. “Our daughter won and that was enough for Travis and I.”
The Wilmoth’s nine-year-old daughter, Alaina took first place in the People’s Choice category for her cobbler.
Alaina loves to cook and has been in the kitchen for a short amount of time, merely due to her young age. She finds her inspiration from watching other chefs like The Pioneer Woman and Bobby Flay.
“I have a recipe box with recipes from The Pioneer Woman that I make,” Alaina said. “My favorite thing to make is muffins and meatloaf.”
Alaina tested out her cobbler recipe three times before she placed first in the contest.
“There were two older women that entered,” Wilmoth said. “Alaina is only nine-years-old and she beat out women that have made cobbler for years.”
Alaina didn’t let her nerves get the best of her. She concentrated on the crowd and the smiling faces that greeted her.
The rules of the contest allow for a little preparation before the timed event however everything must be made from scratch, in front of the crowd on a grill.
Alaina had very little assistance from her parents.
“We were allowed to help her take the cobbler off the grill,” Wilmoth said. “The cobblers have to be cooked on a grill of some sort, like propane.”
“I made a strawberry and blackberry cobbler,” Alaina said. “I really love strawberries and I like black berries.”
The guidelines and basic rules for the cooking portion of the contest is simple. Cooks must bring their own equipment, tables, cooking materials and cooking fuel. The participants must also obtain a Wyoming State Health Department permit, for no cost.
The cooking times for each event begin the morning of the event and are judge at specific times.
According to the cobbler category rules, “Cobbler will be judged based off People’s Choice only. Be sure to prepare enough for the crowd for a better shot at winning.”
“I have a secret seasoning that I add to all of my dishes. I normally put it in meatloaf,” Alaina explained. “I didn’t put it in my cobbler though.”
“She used about two and a half pounds of strawberries and 16 ounces of blackberries,” Wilmoth said. “She received some of her berries from Main Street Market to make her cobbler and she wanted to make sure we thank them.”
Alaina developed her cobbler recipe on her own.
“At first I put the [homemade] baking mix on the bottom but we didn’t like it,” Alaina explained. “So, I put it on top.”
The cobbler baking portion of the contest kicked off at 9 a.m. and the judging began at 2 p.m. Although five hours seems like a bit of time to make a dessert, cooking for a crowd takes some time.
“In the future, she plans to prepare her berries in advance so she has more time the day of to make more cobblers,” Wilmoth said. “She was so busy that day bouncing between activities.”
Alaina also placed second in the pie eating contest during the festivities.
Alaina has the dreams of becoming a chef and she also plans to continue entering the cook-off.
“Since she is so young, I think we are sticking to the cobbler contest, for now but I’d like to see her continue,” Wilmoth said. “There was one man, who came back for at least five samples. So many people were commenting on her cobbler.”
Proceeds from the event go to supporting the Chugwater non-profit organizations such as FFA, FBLA, Historical Unity, the fire department and much more.
Alaina was awarded a trophy engraved with “Chugwater Chili Cook-Off 2023 People’s Choice, first place, Cobbler,” which will be the first of many for this aspiring chef.
“We believe, after looking back, that Alaina is the youngest person to win at the cook-off,” Wilmoth said.
“Being able to look out and see all of the smiling faces gave me the courage to do all of this in from of a crowd,” Alaina said. “It was easy.”