Besting the competition at any chili cook-off feels great, but when the event benefits a pediatric cancer foundation, participation is its own reward. Sous Chefs Grant Ruesch and Adam Schedeler of Denver’s Regis University won the “wild card award” for their chili at the inaugural Zach’s Chili Challenge, which benefited children’s cancer research at the Morgan Adams Foundation.
The challenge — named in honor of 17-year-old Zach Canaday, who continues to pursue his studies even while battling cancer — brought together Denver’s finest chefs at McNichols Civic Center Building. More than 300 guests ate delicious food, enjoyed great drinks, and came together to help raise funds to get kids the treatments they need. The foundation’s events manager, Kirby Lind, wrote to Grant, Adam, and General Manager Letina Matheny-Leix expressing gratitude for the Bon Appétit team’s support. “I am incredibly thankful to you for your participation this year. Without you this event would not be possible. It is our sincere hope that you will continue to join us at future events and help us move forward in our fight against kids’ cancer.” Kirby included a letter of gratitude from Zach’s family, ending his note: “Thank you, once again, for your support of children’s cancer research. You are making a difference!”
Grant and Adam competed against (and beat!) local legends including Biker Jim of Biker Jim’s Gourmet Dogs. The pair’s Gold Label Green Chili featured Hatch, poblano, and Anaheim chilis along with pork shoulder and a rich pork-bone stock. Their use of a wild-card ingredient — pork chicharrones — and the decision to pair their dish with a mint-and-lime agua fresca set their entry apart and earned the duo the wild-card win.
“It was an honor to represent Bon Appétit in the inaugural Zach’s Chili Challenge,” Grant said. “Helping give kids a better quality of life while they battle their disease is a noble cause, and I’m glad Bon Appétit could lend support through the simple act of cooking. It was a memorable night of great food, drink, and community coming together to help kids fighting cancer. I’m already looking forward to next year’s challenge.”
Submitted by Letina Matheny-Leix, General Manager