Sunderland Likes it hot: Chilifest Set for Saturday

The Recorder, September 9th, 2015, Tom Relihan

SUNDERLAND — You may think it’s hot now, but just wait until this weekend in Sunderland, where the fourth annual Chilifest will be held at Mike’s Maze on South Main Street.

The festival, organized by The Kitchen Garden Farm in Sunderland, will be held Saturday and Sunday from noon until 5 p.m.

Kitchen Garden co-owner Caroline Pam said Saturday’s main event, the chili cook-off and free tasting, will start at noon and run until 3 p.m. Judges will include Dan Whalen, the author of a popular recipe blog called The Food in my Beard and Stuffed: The Ultimate Comfort Food Cookbook, T. Susan Chang, cookbook author and reviewer for the Boston Globe, Brian Knox of Bread & Butter in Amherst and J.D. Hairston of the Brass Buckle in Greenfield.

Pam said the event will feature about 13 different chili chefs. The public will have the opportunity to taste each offering and vote on their favorite for the Public Choice award, and the expert judges will blind-taste them for their vote.

On Sunday, another 13 chefs will compete for the top spot in crafting one of the most common ingredients in chili: hot sauce. The competition will be judged by local radio personality Christopher “Monte” Belmonte, Sally Ekus of the Lisa Ekus Group, a culinary literary agency, Sanford D’Amato, the James Beard award-winning owner of Good Stock cooking school in Hatfield, and Kelley Jewel of Provisions in Northampton.
The event will also feature cooking demonstrations focusing on pepper-based dishes, with three chefs demonstrating each day. On Saturday, Jim Zaccara of Hope & Olive and Magpie in Greenfield will offer a demonstration of spicy cocktails, Whalen will cook habanero poppers, and Melody Figge of the Haberdashery in Easthampton will make kimchi, a spicy Korean side dish based on cabbage. Sunday will feature Frank Mangan of the UMass Research Farm preparing sofrito made with Aji Dulce seasoning peppers, David Schrier of The Alvah Stone in Montague making XO sauce, a spicy paste commonly served with Bok Choy, and Steve Viarengo of Enzo’s Hot Sauce, crafting his signature sauce.

Chili won’t be the only food featured at the festival, either. Visitors will be able to snack on tacos made from all-local ingredients, pulled pork, sriracha ice cream and fresh shucked oysters from a handful of local food vendors and wash it down with beer from Abandoned Building Brewery, The People’s Pint and the High Horse.

Those who feel the need to stop and digest for a bit can watch a variety of live bands, including And The Kids, Great Smokey, Potty Mouth, Pete Nolan, The Snaz, Sun Parade, The Derangers and Eli Catlin.

Last year, Pam said, the event attracted over 1,500 people, and she expects more this year due to the recent Internet popularity of Mike’s Maze, which was named Best Corn Maze in America by Yahoo! News and trended virally on social media after this year’s design was unveiled.

Tickets are $10 in advance for adults and $5 for kids, or $12 at the door for adults and $6 for kids.

You can reach Tom Relihan at:,

or call 413-772-0261 ext. 264.