TCAT students compete in chili cook-off Thursday

It may be a technical school dedicated to hands-on careers like HVAC and welding, but the students’ creative sides can still come through, and Thursday was no exception to this.

Students at Elizabethton’s Tennessee College of Applied Technology gathered Thursday morning to compete in the school’s annual Chili Cook-Off, a competition that put the various classes’ culinary skills to the test.

“It is always a pleasure to see what talented students we have,” Student Services Counselor Lori Clarke said.

Roughly a dozen different groups cooked their own pots of chili for the judges to rate. They were not just competing for their own satisfaction, however. A chance to not do class work for a day was on the line.

After the judges had their chance to try the chili, the rest of the student body came to enjoy the free lunch, hanging out and watching Halloween movies such as Hocus Pocus until it was time to announce the winners.

Vice-president Danny O’Quinn said this year’s entries, in particular, were some of the best he has seen since he started working there.

“We are a smaller college, but we are like family,” Clarke said.

This sense of community is visible in their reactions to the winners. In a smaller college such as TCAT, more students are familiar with each other, so everyone reacted to hearing the Pipe Fitting class win first place. Even the fake boo-ing from some of them was done with proud, smiling faces.

“We get to see each other Monday through Thursday,” she said. “We learn names and get to know each other. They are in class together four to sometimes 20 months.”

The competition has been a staple of TCAT for almost two decades now, and not only is it a friendly competition between different classes, but Clarke said it is also a chance to share family recipes as well, adding to the sense of family.

She described it as a chance to flex new muscles in artistic and culinary skills rather than what they might be used to.

“It is all in a fun competitive spirit,” she said.

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