Alumni returned to NKU for chili cook-off

In honor of the Homecoming game on Feb. 7, alumni returned to campus, bringing their crock pots and best chili recipes with them.

The 13th annual Alumni Chili Cook Off took place from 5:30 to 7 p.m. at the Bank of Kentucky Center between Norse women’s and men’s basketball games. Students and alumni were given complimentary mugs for taste testing when they first arrived for the competition.

According to Carol Beirne, assistant director of Student and Young Alumni Programs, all 500 mugs were snatched up right away due to the high turnout.

“The Alumni Chili Cook Off has become one of the biggest homecoming traditions,” Beirne said. “We started it 13 years ago and had two different chilis and 20 people, and today we have 35 chilis and 800 people.”

With the large number of attendees, many of the alumni entered in the competition had a lot of guests to dish out their chili creations for. When they were able to take a break from serving the crowd of people, alumni took the chance to catch up with old classmates and professors. Fond stories of the past were in the air, along with the strong aroma of spices, but the real appeal of the cook off seemed to be bringing the past into the present.

“That’s what keeps NKU going,” Beirne said, regarding alumni connections to the university. “Their involvement, whether as mentors or donors or as help to student groups, is very important to the growth of the student body.”

Jillian Alig, who graduated in 2013, took this ideal to heart and entered the cook-off for the first time this year, with a white chicken chili recipe she perfected for the occasion. Having been a student herself not too long ago, Alig remembered how the Alumni Chili Cook-Off impacted her, and wanted to continue participating even after graduating.

“I had a really good time when I was here last year with everybody so I just wanted to keep participating,” Alig said. “I think it’s nice that we have an event for the alumni on campus, to keep them involved.”

There were several award categories for the different types of participants, including Alumni, Alumni Greek, Faculty/Staff, Community, Student Gold Division and Student Black Division. The most coveted award was recognition as the Grand Champion, determined by the panel of judges from the Midwestern Culinary Institute. The alumni from the Theta Chi fraternity took home the title of Grand Champion, along with the Student Gold Division award.

Along with the awards and the opportunity to watch the big game, the cook off gave alumni the opportunity to revisit their old stomping grounds. While ‘93 graduate Kendra Means was not able to enter the cook off, returning to NKU and seeing old friends and professors meant more to her than an award.

“It’s great to be here and see the excitement that’s still alive at NKU,” Means said. “Now that I’m back, even if it’s just for a day, it feels like I never left.”