Jeanne Prestella will be back at this year’s Fall Festival chili cook-off, but the steaming bowls of chili the defending cook-off champion will serve up this year won’t have three meats or her signature pad of butter on top.
“My chili has a new title,” Prestella said. “I’ve had some big health changes in my life and I am now a vegan.”
This year’s Fall Festival and Chili Cook-off will take place Saturday at the South Lake Tahoe Recreation Complex. Chili tasting will run between 11 a.m. and 2:30 p.m.
Last year, Prestella won the competition with her three-meat chili, topped with a heap of cheese and a pad of butter.
“This year it has no butter. It has nutritional yeast in that place. It has no cheese on top and it has no meat,” Prestella said. “Instead, I’m using a ground, a mushroom ground. I am using the same recipe and I’m just dying to see how people like it.”
Prestella said she changed her eating habits due to declining health. Doctors found that some her problems stemmed from common processed foods, she said. Now, after changing her diet and developing an exercise routine, she’s feeling a lot better, she added. But her chili will have to change its name.
“I am naming it ‘Meatless Award-Winning Chili’ this year,” she said. “I want people to know it’s a healthier product.”
Despite the change in ingredients, Prestella still believes chili is a fantastic dish for a few reasons.
“It’s a hearty dish,” she said. “You really feel full. Other soups sometimes leave you not full enough, where chili will.”
And, then there’s the convenience of the spicy slow-cooked stew.
“For me I can throw it in the Crockpot in the morning and come home to a yummy pot of chili,” she added.
This year’s contest will be a big test for the vegan chili. But Prestella is ready.
“I am excited to see how people react to it and what the response is,” she said.
Also at the Fall Festival, there will be a cake walk with cakes from local bakeries and restaurants. Vendors will offer goods, gift items, services and information.
Local and visiting authors will sign their books in the Book Corner. Among those expected are Liz Patterson, author of the Bonners Fairy series, Debra Gauthier, author of Bright Lights, Dark Places and local authors H. Ray Goodenough and Kathy Rem.