Officer Ben Tobias traded his police badge for a slow cooker this weekend.
As the Gainesville Police Department spokesperson ladled his renowned chili into styrofoam cups, he shared his special ingredient: blackberries.
“I have a lot of heat, and I have to cut it somehow,” he said about his chili. “I’ve learned over the past three years that blackberries was where it was at.”
Tobias and 18 other teams brought gallons of chili to compete in the 16th annual Chili Cook-Off Saturday at Gainesville Harley-Davidson, located at 4125 NW 97th Blvd. This year’s cook-off raised money for the Basketball Cop Foundation, a nonprofit that works to repair the damaged relationship between law enforcement and youth in the community through sports.
About 600 people attended the event, and they consumed nearly 2,000 cups of chili, said Emilee MacDonald, director of marketing and customer development for Gainesville Harley-Davidson.
“Our hope is that the charities that we choose will need the exposure as well as they will need the financial help too,” MacDonald said.
Guests paid $1 per cup of chili they tried. They had the opportunity to enter in raffles, listen to live music from bands like 100 PROOF and get grilled cheese sandwiches from Soup to Nuts Food Truck. The crowd favorite winner from the chili cook-off received an engraved wooden spoon and chefs hat, while second- and third-place winners received medals.
Bret Harder from Bret’s Bikes, a motorcycle repair shop, won first place. He got $500 cash from Crafty Bastards and a spot for his three-bean chili on the restaurant’s menu for 2018.
“(Bret) is a passionate cook,” said Rickey Haslam, general mechanic at Bret’s Bikes. “It’s one of his favorite things to do.”
Gainesville Harley-Davidson will donate anywhere from $2,000 to $3,000 to the Basketball Cop Foundation after the weekend festivities, Macdonald said.
Michele Shelar stopped by the chili cook-off because the weather was perfect, she said. The Gainesville resident thought the cause made the day even better.
“Anything that’s positive for the relationship between the police officers and the youth, especially the youth that are in low-income areas, is good,” Shelar said.
Contact Jessica Giles at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @jessica_giles_