Jennifer Kulacz wasn’t sure until last Friday that she really is a good cook. But that was proven when she took first place in the meat category at the 3rd Annual Chili Bowl, a chili cook-off sponsored by DES to benefit Operation Santa Claus. “You know, when your family and friends tell you you’re a good cook, they kind of have to,” she said. “I’m still on cloud nine, I just didn’t expect to win. It’s really exciting to know that people I have no connection with, no relationship with, think I’m a good cook.”
Jennifer, is an SEA member from the Dept. of Safety and said she learned about the Chili Bowl from reading the SEA News. “I love to cook, so I thought, I think I’ll enter. But I hemmed and hawed about it until a co-worker encouraged me to. Then I finally did enter,” she said. So, she searched through her recipes, pulled out this one and set to work. “I hadn’t used the recipe in a long time,” she said. “So I started a few days ahead of time, in case it turned out awful, I could try again.” Needless to say, it turned out great.
Jennifer’s recipe had both pork and beef for ingredients. She braised the meat, then fork pulled the pork. She seared chuck roast and simmered the chili for three to four hours. “Making it ahead also gave the seasonings time to really flavor the dish. One man came up for his third taste and there was nothing left,” Jennifer said. “He said ‘oh, just scrape around the sides of the crockpot and give me that.’ ” That’s how good the chili was!
Jennifer took leave from her position to attend the event and serve her dish to the many taster/judges. “My boss was really good about it,” she said. “I wound up taking some annual time, but with all we have going on at work with off-line searches right now, I went back to work rather than take the full day and adjusted my schedule.” Jennifer works for the Division of State Police.
When asked about next year, Jennifer said, “I’ll probably enter again next year. It was a lot of fun and everyone was so helpful and friendly. At first I was really apprehensive not knowing anyone – I was definitely out of my comfort zone. But they were all so welcoming. And, after all, Operation Santa Claus is such a worthy cause.”
We can’t wait to see what Jennifer comes up with next year! Don’t miss it.