Cottage Bar Chili Cook-off returns under new name, location

Grand Rapids

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A once-prominent West Michigan chili cook-off will return after years of not happening. The Cottage Bar Chili Cook-off will be back this year just under a new name and a new location.  

“The Cottage Bar Chili Cook-off I started in 1981. We did it for 36 years then discontinued it in 2017,” said Dan Verhil, the former owner of the Cottage Bar.  

Verhil and his wife Lisa sold the Cottage Bar after running it for 41 years. As a result, they also stopped running the restaurant’s annual fall chili cook-off.  

“We love the chili cook-off. I mean, when we weren’t making money for a charity that’s when we kind of stopped it because of expenses. We love that day,” said Lisa Verhil.

When approached by the nonprofit Fans of Valley Field to resurrect the chili cook-off, the Verhil’s jumped at the idea.

“It’s all done from scratch, all raw ingredients, it takes three hours to cook it. You can smell the aroma while they are cooking it, meanwhile, there is live music going on, it’s a festive atmosphere,” Dan Verhil said.  

It will now be called Chili Cook-off at the Ball Park and will be held at Sullivan Field on Grand Rapids’ West Side. Teams will compete and be judged on their chili. The recipes can be as mild or as wild as they want.

“There are a couple of categories: homestyle and unique. We’ve had people put rattlesnake in chili before,” Lisa Verhil said.

As for the change in venue, the Verhils see this as an opportunity for some who may have never experienced their cook-off before.

“I would say if people have never experienced it before, first dress warm and come to be surprised. It really is an interesting event to watch these people cook and then be able to taste their creations after they produced it,” Dan Verhil said.

The event will be held from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 6 at Sullivan Field. Tickets are $5 at the gate and proceeds will go to Kids’ Food Basket and Fans of Valley Field.

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