The Student News Site of Grand Valley State University

Grand Valley Lanthorn

The Student News Site of Grand Valley State University

Grand Valley Lanthorn

The Student News Site of Grand Valley State University

Grand Valley Lanthorn

Nineteenth annual geology chili cook off fosters friendship through food

GVL | Trenton Strada

The Grand Valley State University Geology Department hosted its nineteenth annual chili cook-off on Monday, Feb 19. Thirteen chilis made by faculty and students were entered, along with desserts and side dishes. 

The department invited different faculty members across campus to judge the competition. The chilis were up for awards like best overall, spiciest, most popular, best student chili and most geological. 

The event began in 2005 when GVSU College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (CLAS) geology professor Peter Riemersma wanted to continue the tradition from his time at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Geology Department, where he earned his Ph.D. 

CLAS geology professor Kevin Cole submitted the winning spicy chili (chili #10), which included one pound of jalapenos and smoked turkey meat. While some attendees were fond of the spicy flavor, the chili provoked a different reaction from Kristen Gretka, a GVSU student, who found herself flushed and having to sit on the floor after trying the chili. 

“I have zero spice tolerance,” Gretka said.

Gretka used a spoonful of sour cream to soothe the burning from the chili. She said she gravitates towards a more mildly flavored chili and was drawn to chili #2. Chili #2, winner of the Most Popular Chili award, was entered by Paige Meller, a student in the Geology Department.

“I think the flavors (of chili #2) were really balanced well, it wasn’t even overly meaty, but it had a lot of good like veggies and such,” said Gretka.

The winners of each category were awarded trophies, made by Cole, shaped like a variety of large peppers with their category displayed on the base. 

Some other chilis entered were “Skyline Chili,” which is served over spaghetti, and Hot Dog Chili made by CLAS geography professor Ian Winkelsern. He also brought classic hot dog toppings to complete the recipe.

“My sister-in-law won a chili contest with it, so I stole her recipe,” Winkelsern said. “Onions, cheese, relish, ketchup, mustard, the works.”

Jonathan DeSantiago, student president of the Geology Club, entered a chili into the most geological category. He said it is the smallest category, so he felt he had a good chance of winning, which he did. 

“I’m calling it eruption chili. I made these little bread domes that kind of look like volcanoes and then the idea is you pour it on with the chili,” Desantiago said. 

Many geology students came out to attend the event and mingle with others involved in the department. There was an open environment as people chatted and exchanged favorite chilis. 

“Every teacher talks about it (the cook-off),” said Alec Shulte, a GVSU student. 

Shulte attended the event, as it lined up with his lunch break, and he expressed that he enjoys being able to socialize within the department. Shulte said the event is promoted across the department and he has attended chili cook-offs for the past three years.

Riemersma hosts the chili cook-off  in the winter because he said chili is a “cold-weather food” and can be easily served out of a crockpot. It is also an opportunity for people to try new variations of a classic food. 

There are a wide variety of different kinds of chili that can be and are served,” Riemersma said. “There is an atmosphere of exploration and adventure associated with the event as you encounter and try chilis that you have never eaten before.”

While Riemersma is the founder of the event and coordinates it annually, he credits the Geology Faculty for its longevity and their contributions to the contest like Cole’s unique trophies.  

Many attendees speculated what the connection between chili and geology could be– some proposed that it could be that both are made up of many different things, and others more simply said both involve hot liquid.

Some people extended the event to other programming coordinated by the department.

“Chili is often traditionally thought of as ‘cowboy’ food that is consumed outdoors around a campfire. Our geology students at GVSU go on faculty lead field trips that often involve camping and sitting around a fire,” said Riemersma.

Over spring break the department will be heading to Kentucky to explore the Mammoth Caves on an informational trip, where they will explore geological feats and enjoy chili around the campfire.

More to Discover