More than 60 gallons of chili is what the Upsala Fire Department will for sure receive from Hormel over the course of one year.
The prize is for the runners-up and the grand prize winner in Hormel’s Firehouse Chili Contest.
The grand prize winner will also take home $10,000 for his or her fire department.
In addition, Hormel will donate $20,000 to the Fallen Firefighter’s Association in the winning department’s name.
Garrett Doucette, a firefighter and first responder with the Upsala Fire Department, heard about the contest in April.
One of the other firefighters had showed it to him on Facebook, knowing Doucette usually makes his famous and award-winning chili at Kinship of Morrison County’s annual Soup and Chili Cook-off.
Doucette was chosen as one of five finalists who will participate in the cook-off, at the New York City Fire Museum in New York City, N.Y., Tuesday, Sept. 25,
The other finalists are Eddy Dumire with Dale City Volunteer Fire Department, Station 13, in Woodbridge, Va., Milton Williams with Dallas Fire Station 50 in Dallas, Texas, Dan Rinaldo from Providence Fire Department in Providence, R.I. and Alex Callegari with the Boca Raton Fire Department, Station 8, Engine Company 8, in Miami, Fla.
Each finalist represents a region of the U.S. — northwest, northeast, southwest, southeast and midwest.
Doucette represents the midwest.
Jason George, an actor with ABC’s Station 19, will judge the chili entries.
Doucette and many others hope his chili will win the grand prize. It would mean so much to the Fire Department and the firefighters, he said.
If Upsala Fire Department wins the grand prize, the money will be primarily spent to purchase important equipment for the firefighters.
While about $30,000 is needed to replace the aged turnout gear, Doucette said winning the money would help them significantly.
“It would be a start,” he said.
As of now, the Upsala Fire Department needs to replace 20 sets of turnout gear, such as coats, pants, helmets and boots.
“We have applied the last two years to FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) for the grant to buy that, but we haven’t received it,” he said.
According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), the governing regulation states that turnout gear will last 10 years. However, the turnout gear the firefighters with the Upsala Fire Department are using has been used for 15 years.
“There are dangers with that. The biggest upcoming danger is absorbing the chemicals that new furniture gives off,” he said.
The smoke, including the chemicals, is absorbed into the fabric of the turnout gear.
Although there are special washing machines that can remove the chemicals, Doucette said the Fire Department’s turnout gear is way beyond that.
The next goal is to replace all of the air packs, which are worn like a backpack and make it possible for the firefighters to breathe while in an atmosphere that is dangerous to their lives or health.
Exactly where the recipe for Doucette’s famous creamy turkey chili came from is unknown. It was something that was passed down to him by his uncle, Jim, and has been in the family for more than 15 years.
The choice to use turkey compared to the traditional ground beef came from the fact that the Doucettes come from three generations of turkey farmers.
“Growing up, raising turkeys, we were looking for more creative ways to eat turkey. Being a turkey grower myself, that’s why I stuck with the recipe. People are also looking for leaner choices and there’s a lot of lean protein with turkey,” he said.
When Doucette first started making his turkey chili for the annual Kinship of Morrison County Soup and Chili Cook-off, he never anticipated it would get the recognition it did. Especially since he was competing against several professional chefs and restaurant owners, he said.
“It was just something I was going to do for fun. I remember the first time. I went through six gallons and I was bone dry. I never thought I would win, but then first place was read and there was my recipe,” he said.
Since then, Doucette’s chili has taken home the Kinship Cook-off’s People’s Choice Award for three years in a row.
“People just love it and we do, too,” he said.
Those who are curious about Doucette’s or the other Hormel’s Firehouse Chili Contest contestants’ recipes may visit www.fire housechili.hormel.com/all-recipes.
Doucette is looking forward to the contest and is excited about the opportunity to win $10,000 for the Upsala Fire Department.
“It would mean a lot to our department,” he said.
Doucette’s contest results will be posted to www.mcrecord.com following the contest.