Compass hosted its eighth annual Gay Chili Cook-off on Sunday. This year's spicy cook-off was held at Penny’s at the Duke in Lantana. The event featured entertainers, a 50/50 raffle, and eleven sizzling plates of chili.
Compass raised over $5,000 at the event — with the proceeds going toward its youth group. Last year the event raised about $4,000, thanks to the generous and hungry crowd.
"We are more than happy to have you this afternoon," said Compass CEO Julie Seaver. “This happens to be one of the major fundraisers for our Equality Prom, as well as being one of my favorite community events. The support this year has been amazing.”
There were 11 different local businesses competing this year. Local gay bars like The Mad Hatter Lounge and H.G. Roosters cooked to win, as well as some new competitors. Other clubs and organizations that participated were Night Runners of WPB, Haus of Quota, and the Rusty Gordon Palm Beach LGBTA Democratic Caucus.
This year also saw an influx of individual cooks like travel agent Aaron Kelly, Patty Lucia also known as "Mother Earth,” and David Vancamp of Gator Dave's Swamp Shack who was representing "Team Everyday People" of Smart Ride. Lantana local Richard Edgerton who debuted his chili last year, returned as he showed off his culinary training with his contribution "A Taste of France.”
One of the newest groups to participate in the cook-off was the Palm Beach County Public Library. John Campbell, who has worked for the library for 11 years was the chef. "I think this event very successful. I was super impressed with the turnout,” Campbell said. "I participated because my daughter is involved with her LGBT organization at her school, so we though this cook-off would be a good way to show our alliance."
His daughter Serenity attends Lake Worth Middle School.
"I felt like it was really important for us to be here today,” said the middle-schooler. "Even though we've seen it die down a little, there is still tons of hate and discrimination towards the LGBT community and trans community. Events like this allow us to spread love and not hate.”
Although the chili was hot, the performances warmed the crowd up even more. There were several show-stopping performances by some of Palm Beach County’s most colorful entertainers and drag queens.
Audience members enjoyed appearances from Vasti Love Montana, Laila Cox, Tyresha Jones, and Danielle Montgomery. Returning as the show's host, Melissa St. John not only performed to "Unbreak My Heart" and "Rock Steady,” she also gave the crowd three stunning outfit changes.
Last year the performers donated their tips towards the cause. This year they earned $301 which they donated back to Compass.
The returning champs, Mad Hatter Lounge, took home the trophy for first place again this year. Second place went to The Imperial Sun Court of South Florida and third place to the Rusty Gordon LGBTS Democratic Caucus of Palm Beach.
"The Mad Hatter took home the award for Tim, one of the co-owners, who we lost last year,” Seaver said.
The local bar’s winning pot of chili was by Mareewan Khaland and Michael McLaughlin from Port St. Lucie. It included ground beef, fresh garlic, tomatoes, stew meat, green pepper, sliced onions, kidney beans and navy beans and was served with a shot of tequila.
"We also want to take the time to recognize another eight-time chili cook-off winner that we lost and that’s PJ Emerson. She was always the first to sign up,” Seaver said. “We miss you guys, and thank you. Even in her death PJ is making an impact. She raised over $600 for today's event alone.”
The Imperial Sun Court’s recipe included Corona, beef, jalapeno, chili peppers and South western spices. Rusty Gordon’s recipe included filet mignon and savory peppers.
The money raised from the annual event will go towards the Equality Prom, which Compass hosts in May every year and is free for the students to attend.
The Compassmeets every Wednesday and Friday from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. The group is for LGBTQ teens and allies from ages 12-18. This group is open; anyone can join at any time. For more information contact Amanda Canete at