Zorina Barker/for Peninsula Daily News The Hungry Bear Cafe west of the Bear Creek Bridge on U.S. Highway 101, is hosting the 15th annual Bear Creek Chili Cook-Off and Potluck on Saturday.

WEST END NEIGHBOR: Hungry Bear to host chili cook-off

The 15th annual Bear Creek Chili Cook-Off and Potluck will be this Saturday at the Hungry Bear Cafe west of the Bear Creek Bridge on U.S. Highway 101.

WAIT, JUST HOLD on a minute.

The days of sand so hot it burns your feet might have left the West End for the year, but the day for burning your mouth is just around the corner.

The Hungry Bear Café is hosting the 15th annual Bear Creek Chili Cook-off and Potluck this coming Saturday.

The café isn’t in Beaver, or even Sappho for that matter.

It is just west of the Bear Creek bridge on U.S. Highway 101, a skosh west of the 206-milepost marker.

Gary and Debbie Johnson own and operate the roadside restaurant. But Debbie credits their son, Woody Johnson, as the “one who got the cook-off up and running.”

Most days of the year, he is generally seen behind the pass shelf inside the restaurant, working in a white T-shirt over a hot grill.

The cook-off has become an all-day affair, with entertainment and prizes for everyone in the family.

Cooks can set up any time after 8 a.m. the day of the competition. Cooking begins with a bang at noon, after all registered cooks have gathered for a meeting.

The allotted cooking time is three hours and cooks must provide all their own utensils, cookware and cooking heat source. All of the cooking is done outdoors in the view of judges and spectators.

The Johnsons emphasize on their rule list “Remember — This is for fun!”

Other rules include sanitary precautions and highlight the need for respecting the judging process.

All fresh produce must be chopped on site and any meat fit for human consumption is acceptable. Almost any ingredient is acceptable. However no commercial, just-add-meat chili mixes will be allowed.

In the past, some competitors have removed all lids and labels from their cans and jars so their secret ingredients remain secret.

Elk, bear, turkey and salmon have all been cooked into cook-off chili.

Past years have seen competitors come from Aberdeen, Centralia, Mount Vernon and Seattle. Trophies or plaques are awarded to the first-, second- and third-place contestants. A plaque containing the names of past winners is located in the Hungry Bear Café.

Judges are pulled from the attending crowd. They are provided with notebooks and pens to write their personal opinions of the entries’ texture, taste and appearance.

Mandy Enges, waitress and cook for the restaurant says “I appreciate that it is so kid- and family-friendly.”

She goes on to detail the games planned for the children: tug-of-war, bobbing for apples and a coin search under a mountain of hay. Young contestants in the games are given age-appropriate prizes.

Free hot dogs and burgers will be provided by the Hungry Bear.

“We really like it when folks contribute to the potluck,” Debbie says and adds she feels the homemade additions add to the fun family atmosphere.

Although there will be a beer garden, the Johnsons strongly emphasize that this event is family-friendly: Excessive profanity and alcohol consumption absolutely will not be tolerated.

The local band Black Rock will provide the live music for toe-tapping and booty shaking. This band was specifically chosen for its repertoire of music with lyrics the general crowd can sing.

For more information, call the Hungry Bear Café at 360-327-3225.

_________

Zorina Barker lives in the Sol Duc Valley with her husband, a logger, and two children she home-schools.

Submit items and ideas for the column to her at zorina [email protected], or phone her at 360-327-3702. West End Neighbor appears in the PDN every other Tuesday.

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