LUMBERTON — Beth Hunt is a cross-border chili cooking champ.
“And I’m not a cook!” she said.
But, having now won chili cook-offs in both North Carolina and South Carolina, Hunt, the manager at Clayton Home Sales in Lumberton, may need to rethink that statement.
Hunt, along with co-workers and her husband, took the title of Best Overall Chili at this year’s Rumba on Lumber’s Bud Light North of the Border Chili Cook-Off. It was their first time competing.
“We put duck it in, that’s our unique ingredient,” Hunt said. Clayton Home Sales is sponsored by reality television hit “Duck Dynasty,” which was also the inspiration behind their Duck Commander chili.
Hunt said the group started prepping the chili, which also has beef, sausage, Bud Light and “lots of spices,” at 8 p.m. on Friday and worked for nearly four hours straight building the flavors. The recipe, however, they nailed on the first go.
“We just winged it,” Hunt said. Apparently, that’s a winning strategy.
“Everybody that came by said somebody recommended us to come try you’re chili. I was shocked, really,” Hunt said.
Jason Maloney, who lives in Lumberton, was one of them.
“I think they were the front-runners for sure,” said Maloney, who tried five or six of about 20 chilis served at the contest.
Maloney said he’s been coming to the cook-off for years and will definitely come back if Clayton Homes returns with their special ingredient.
“I thought it added a real flavor. It was very good,” he said.
The Lumberton Police Department took a slightly more unusual approach to their chili, which won them the title of Weirdest Ingredient.
“We’ve had the same team throughout the years. We keep the same recipe and our secret ingredient is always pepper spray,” said Sgt. Don Ward, a retired officer.
The pepper spray didn’t deter tasters from trying the ground beef and pork chili it took the team about half a day to prepare.
“We just put a real quick spurt in there,” he said.
Ward, along with his team, has participated in the cook-off for six or seven years and said “probably nothing” could make him sick of chili. In fact, he says, the cliche of tasty Fire House Chili, needs to be rewritten for the boys in blue. The team won Best Overall Chili their first year competing and has topped the Public Servant category several times.
Kendrix Singletary, a judge for Best Booth, Best Costume and Best Name, said he liked the City of Lumberton Recreation Department’s pineapple and orange juice chili the best.
Unlike others, Singletary wasn’t scared off by Lumberton Rescue and Emergency Medical Services wild ingredient, cheddar-flavored dried larvae, which the team was sure would earn them the Weirdest Ingredient title.
“It’s protein! It’s a delicacy for some,” Singletary said.
Chili aside, Singletary, like many in attendance, came out on Saturday to support his community.
“It’s just something that brings the community together,” he said. “I enjoy anything that’s going to showcase Robeson County in a positive light,” he said.