Chili Cook-Off Could Spice Up Tourism For South Mississippi

The weather outside was far from chilly, but the blend of spices atop Hurley Ray Guillotte's stove could warm up anyone.

"We tried to make it with a little Mississippi flavor!" Guillotte said.

South Mississippi's first-ever "Regional Chili-Cook Off" is giving many people a reason to slave over the warm stove all day.

Guillotte says competition chili is different than the kind you make at home, so his team did extra research.

"We found out what these champions cooked in different areas and times and all. We took what we liked out of it, and hopefully we came up with a winning combination!" Guillotte said.

The competition is more than your average backyard cook-off. That's because cooks have come from all over the United States to participate, and are all competing for a chance to attend the world championship chili cook-off.

And inside the judging room, you learn it's all about first impressions.

"People think the better chilis are the hotter chilis. I can make a bowl of oatmeal hot, there's no trick at all to that. You have to make everything work so the judge will take one little taste and say 'Wow, that's good!'" Jerry Buma said.

Buma is the reigning Red Chili World Champion from Massachusetts. He's judging the salsas, looking for taste, texture, and flavor.

The most important ingredient is a handful of fun. Guillotte says South Mississippi has plenty to offer.

"I've tried to put an image out there when people come to town. The ones I've talked to said we'll be back next year!" Guillotte said.

Contestants were from as far away as Montana and North Carolina.

Ultimately, it was Mike Freedman from Connecticut that took home the top prize, and qualified for the International Chili Society's World Championship and a chance to win $25,000.