John Huffman is sensitive when it comes to his chili.
Huffman, chair of the Sixth Annual Chili Cook-off for Education, lost to Barbara Jenkins, executive director of the Maryville City Schools Foundation in the 2009 event.
He hasn’t forgotten, not that Barbara would let him forget.
“We won last year and I’m going to win again this year for Best Overall Chili,” she said. “The foundation is very strong in this competition.”
Huffman said this year’s event will bring two levels of competition. “It brings competition between the event hosts - Rotary Club of Maryville and The Maryville City Schools Foundation as far as being participating teams and sponsors and then there is the chili competition itself,” he said.
Huffman’s wife Connie Huffman, assistant administrator with Blount Memorial Hospital, said that John was ready to compete with Jenkins again.
“He’s still mad he got smoked by Barbara,” she said as her husband feigned anger. “But my chili was the best,” he replied.
Jenkins gave John Huffman a good-natured hard time. “But it wasn’t best overall then and now you have Todd White who says he’s going to beat me this year,” she said of the former foundation chair who is cooking for The Market at Washington and High.
Jenkins countered that the Rotary Club had invited her and the Maryville City Schools Foundation to compete again in this year’s event.
“The Rotary Club came and asked if we would like to cook,” she said, to which Huffman replied, “You were last year’s winner, I think you ought to be exempt.”
“But I asked and you gave me permission to compete,” she said as Huffman laughed. “I can’t beat you if you don’t compete.”
Connie Huffman said the competition is all in good fun and for a good cause. “It’s a friendly competition along Maryville City School’s Foundation, Maryville Rotary and John and Barbara.
Jenkins said there will be a booth decoration competition and Huffman said the individuals competing in the chili competition will have all levels of skills.
“There are teams from all levels of cooking ability and culinary skills, from those who are real connoissour to people who’ve never made chili before,” he said, to which Jenkins quickly interjected, “Is that you?”
John Huffman said the competition is to provide financial support for each organization’s educational initiatives. “Ours is the dictionary project and the student of the month we have as well as our education scholarships,” he said.
Jenkins said the funds the foundation raises during the chili competition will go toward the 21st Century Technology Partnership. “We’ve funded the Outdoor Classroom at Maryville Middle School and the environmental camp Maryville Intermediate School does, and the Literacy Program at Maryville High School. There are so many needs in the system, especially with budgets being cut, there plenty of uses for the money,” she said.
Jenkins said she has met with Maryville City Schools director Stephanie Thompson and Tom Howard, chair of our foundation board, to see where the needs are. “The biggest need from teachers is finishing the technology campaign. We’ve already raised $1 million in the partnership launched three years ago between the school system, parents, the foundation, city council and the school board. “It’s so exciting. This is the first year we’ve been involved as a partner with the Chili Cook-off for Education,” she said.
Connie Huffman said the funds raised by the Maryville Rotary Club provide dictionaries for every third grader in every school system in the county except for Alcoa, which are provided by the Alcoa Rotary Club.
John Huffman said the dictionary project is a national non-profit project where organizations can buy dictionaries at a low cost and distribute them to school systems. “We always pick third graders. A lot of times with dictionaries it is the first book some of these children have ever owned themselves and it’s their book to take home and use,” he said.
John Huffman said the Maryville Rotary also has a student of the month program and they give four advanced education scholarships for higher education, as well our Adopt-a-School program.
The event is from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at The Shed at Smoky Mountain Harley-Davidson on West Lamar Alexander Parkway in Maryville.
“It’s a good location to have an event where the restrooms and all the infrastructure are already there. Smoky Mountain Harley Davidson is a great supporter of non-profits in our area and we are pleased that they allow us to use their facility,” he said. “Folks like Anderson Rental are donating tables and chairs for the event so we have enough tables and chairs.”
Huffman said there will be fun for children too. “We’ll have inflatables and other activities,” he said.
Connie Huffman said it is a good venue and a great atmosphere. “Everyone is there for education,” she said. “It’s a family-friendly event.”
Other sponsors include Anderson Rental, Alcoa Tenn Federal Credit Union, Blount Today, Eberting Orthodontics, ALCOA, Matrixx Mail Service and Bob Kidd Exteriors. “The Market - this will be the second or third year they’ve been a sponsor. New this year is ESPN Radio. They will be doing a live remote during the event,” he said. “We’ve had lots of individual donors who like what we do and are willing to give money to help. What I was telling Barbara it’s neat for people to give money; they support our educational programs and don’t feel they need individual acknowledgement. They like the idea and mission and that is a good indication you’re doing something good and they just want to help.”
The way the fundraiser goes is proceeds from tickets either organization sells prior to the event go to that organization. “Everybody is trying to do best for their organization, we split the gate that day,” Huffman said. To support the Rotary Club of Maryville, people can buy tickets for the event from members of the club. To support the Maryville City Schools Foundation folks can buy tickets at The Market at Washington and High.
“My goal is to get 20 teams involved and our collective goal is to raise $5,000 to be split between the organizations,” Huffman said. “The essence of this competition is there is no money. People aren’t competing for prize money but they’re competing for bragging rights.”
The judges in the Chili Cook-off for Education will be professionals.
Recruited to judge the competition is Judge D. Kelly Thomas, State Court of Criminal Appeals, Blount County General Sessions Judge Bill Brewer, Blount County General Sessions Judge Mike Gallegos, Blount County Circuit Court Judge David Duggan and Blount County General Sessions Judge Robert Headrick. The event runs from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and judging is a noon.
For information call the Maryville City Schools Foundation at 982-7121 or John Huffman at 865-970-2322.