The night was warm on Nov. 6, and the friendly atmosphere got even warmer as more than 100 Southwestern students, faculty and their families came out to the tennis courts to enjoy the fifth annual Chili Cook-Off. As 24 contestants handed out sample cups of homemade chili, they shared small parts of their cultural heritage in their delicious dishes.

 “The Chili Cook-Off is one of my favorite events each year,” says Garrison Griffith, associate director of Student Life, who oversaw the event. “It highlights the culinary skills of our students as well as the flavors of their various cultural backgrounds.”

Indeed, some of the booths this year had special themes representing the tastes of home. Master of Divinity student Mathieu Barry and his wife, Lynsey, who won first prize for table decor, brought out the flavors of Tennessee in their recipe. Another booth boasted a special twist to the traditional American favorite, producing Korean-American fusion chili.

Bachelor of Science student Jinhwan Lee, who enjoys introducing his home cuisine to his friends and created the Korean-American fusion chili, says, “I love cooking with my friends and sharing the food. Events like the Chili Cook-Off bring a sense of unity among diverse students, making us one big community.”

Family-oriented fun is another integral element of the annual Chili Cook-Off. As students and faculty went around tasting the chili and greeting friends, the children enjoyed large bounce houses set up on the other side of the tennis courts. “I thank Southwestern for organizing and hosting these events, where students and all their families can have fun together,” says Beomjae Choi, a Master of Arts in Theology student.

Master of Theology student James Crockett won the grand prize for the best chili of the night—an iPad. “I am surprised at how many people came out, and how fast we ran out of chili,” Crockett says. “I think people enjoyed it and felt a lot of camaraderie.”

Jillian McNeely, a Bachelor of Science student, was awarded the second prize Kindle Fire and Sarah Prettel, wife of Master of Divinity student Juan Prettel, came in third, receiving a $50 Amazon gift card. In addition, prizes for best table decor were awarded to Master of Divinity student Mathieu Barry, Master of Divinity student Lance Rogers, and Master of Arts student Amanda Wingard.

“The Chili Cook-Off, like many of our other events, hopes to facilitate community and fellowship here at Southwestern,” says Student Life coordinator Laura Boyd. “The Chili Cook-Off is a way that we can bring our backgrounds, cultures and cooking skills and get to know each other on a deeper level.”