CenterState Bank Wins People’s Choice For Chili On The Ridge
by James Coulter
As someone of Hispanic heritage, Carmen Rodriguez knows that a little bit of spice goes a long way. So it was only natural that the chili that she and her teammates from CenterState Bank won people’s choice at the annual Chili on the Ridge.
Stacy Stokes, the team leader, undoubtedly credited their success to Carmen’s cooking. They had been participating in the annual chili cookoff in Haines City for three years, and this was the first time Carmen took charge of the cooking.
“Carmen put her special twist on it this year and gave us People’s Choice,” Stacy said. “Everybody liked it…She cooked like she was cooking for her family.”
As to her success, Carmen credits her rich Hispanic heritage. As her upbringing taught her, anything and everything tastes better when you add just the right amount of spice to it.
“I am Hispanic, so we use a lot of spices,” she said. “Anything I found in the pantry, I put it in there.”
Stacy and her team from CenterState have been attending Chili on the Ridge for three years. Despite the current COVID-19 crisis and the rainy weather earlier that day, they enjoyed attending the event and considered the turnout significant.
“I think we have done well,” she said. “We had larger turnouts, the weather was not on our side, and people may have been afraid to come out. I think what we were given, everyone did well.”
CenterState Bank was one of more than a dozen teams that participated in this year’s Chili on the Ridge competition at Lake Eva Park in Haines City on Saturday. Their team won the people’s choice.
Winning first place overall was Amped Up Chili. Steven Tiner, the team leader, credited his success purely to luck, as his chili was created through trial and error.
“I owe my success to lucky recipes,” he said. “Keep throwing stuff in a pot and see if it works.”
For his recipe, his chili was prepared with three different types of meat: brisket, chuck roast, and bottom round roasts. Through various chili powder and seasoning, he was able to cook all three portions of meat together in a savory blend.
He was a Rotary Club member of Haines City for the past five years, and he has participated in their annual chili cookoff for the past four years. He enjoyed being able to compete this year, even despite these uncertain times and even more uncertain weather that morning.
“It is awesome,” he said. “It is all about people coming out to a community event. Everybody is coming out and enjoying themselves and trying to raise money for local scholarships.”
Chili on the Ridge is one of the two signature events hosted by the Rotary Club of Haines City. Both are hosted as fundraisers to raise proceeds for scholarships to local high school students.
Because of the current COVID-19 crisis, their chili competition last year could not be hosted as scheduled. This year, special precautions were taken to ensure public health and safety, with vendors spaced apart and hand sanitizer stations set up throughout the perimeter.
Though there was rain earlier that morning, the clouds in the sky managed to part and let the sun shine through in time for the award ceremony later that afternoon. Overall, the turnout proved decent, and attendees enjoyed the excellent food, music, and company, explained Travis Keyes, Rotary President.
“We had a good number of people come through, [and] everybody has enjoyed themselves,” he said. “We have a lot of community participation, [with] even some people from out of the area from Kissimmee and Winter Haven.”