It’s getting chili in here

Staff cook-off sparks competitive spirit in the teacher’s lounge

Kirsten Wandrey, Staff Writer

The brisk fall air is upon us once again, and the annual autumnal rivalries are taking a forefront in Omaha. Pecan vs. pumpkin pie, Huskers vs. Hawkeyes.

At MN, a different kind of competition is brewing—one that involves a hot, steaming bowl of a Midwestern classic.

The teacher chili cook-off is an event held each fall. This year was the second annual cook-off. It took place on Sept. 27.

“It’s really fun to test several different chili recipes, and there were a lot of really terrific desserts,” media specialist Stephanie Burdic, who participated in eating chili.

Any staff member was free to enter either a chili or a dessert into the contest.  Roughly 115 teachers participated in this year’s cook-off, with 10 teachers entering chili and 7 teachers entering desserts.

“It was really fun coming to work and not having to worry about lunch, and I knew that I was going to have a great lunch that I didn’t have to cook,” Burdic said.

There were three winners for chili and two winners for dessert, complete with generous prize packages.

Chick-fil-a, Sports Clips, Mama’s Pizza, and Chili’s all giave prize packages full of gift cards and items to the winners.

“The person who wins first place chili gets to pick first, and then second place gets to pick next,” event coordinator Amber Ripa said.

Teachers paid a $5 donation to sample chilis and desserts, as well as participate in voting. Those that entered the contest didn’t have to pay. All roceeds go to fund the Millard Foundation. The Millard Foundation is a group that supports projects and programs for students in the district. This includes scholarships, IB and AP testing, and rewarding grants.

“Their goal is to support things that are not normally sustainable. They support our students, so it all comes back to all of the kids in Millard,” Ripa said.

After all the teachers voted, the winner was determined. Counselor Jodi Therkelsen took home the 1st place chili trophy, as her chili was the best.

“I had no idea I would win. I just thought it sounded fun,” Therkelsen said.

Despite her doubts, the staff agreed that Therkelsen concocted the winning chili recipe. What made it the best?

“I like to think it was because it’s my mom’s recipe, but I did make a few modifications. I add bowtie pasta to my chili, but most of the recipe is hers.” Therkelsen said.

In light of her recent success, Therkelsen hopes for a repeat victory in next year’s cook-off.

“Oh, I’m making the exact same one, because now people know it’s a winner!” Therkelsen said.

At the end of the day, all of the competition is in good spirits. The cook-off serves as a chance for staff to enjoy spending time with each other.

“We don’t use that faculty lounge very much, so it’s fun when all of us are going in and out because there are certain people you don’t see very often,” Therkelsen said.

The annual chili cook-off not only marks the start of the fall season, but it provides for Millard’s students and builds camaraderie among teachers. And really, what is a better way to celebrate the season than by giving back to the community while filling up on some good, old-fashioned chili?