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The 21st annual Hanover Chili Cook Off took place on Sept. 4, 2016. Clare Becker

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Jeremy Levy does not like chili.

The 9-year-old said he is super, super, super sensitive to spicy food, which makes eating or even tasting chili out of the question.

Still, after spending the past three years watching his dad compete at the annual Hanover Chili Cook Off, Jeremy thought he knew a thing or two about how to make a mean batch.

Jeremy was just one of a handful of kids participating in the Ghon Eckley Memorial Youth Cook Off, a division of the Hanover Chili Cook Off, held Sunday.

The youth competition was held for the first time this year for all chefs under the age of 18.

Eckley was the cook off's chief judge for a number of years, said event director John Loose in August. He died about two months ago, Loose said, and the addition of this new youth cook off is a tribute to him.

Jeremy had paprika on his forehead and tortilla chip crumbs around the corners of his mouth Sunday as he worked on his pot of chili.

"You have to get the meat a little bit wrinkly, almost silver," he said of his meat browning strategy. He took a little break only to grab another tortilla chip before wiping his mouth on his sleeve.

Just a few booths down, 12-year-old Emily Donnelly was doing her best to give Jeremy a run for his money. She ultimately won the kids' competition.

The secret to a good pot of red chili is to cook the batch with whole, slit jalapenos; two prunes for sweetness and sausage to soak up the oils, she said.

Emily stood on her tiptoes while stirring her Jimmy Dean sausage on the portable stove in her tent.

Another aspiring chili expert Alayna Myatt, 12, was at the Bean with a Dream tent on the other end of the event grounds. Alayna was apparently that bean with a dream, she said, explaining that she wants to be a chef someday.

She was so committed to monitoring her chili while it simmered that she did not have the opportunity to scope out the competition.

"I've been in here all day, but my grandma brought me some samples," she said.

Alayna was not about to give away her secret ingredient but was happy to dole out advice to the other kids making chili Sunday.

"Put your heart and soul into it," she said.

Evening Sun reporter Geena Goozdich contributed to this article.

Winners

  • Showmanship: HellBelly Chili
  • People's Choice: 3 Hogs BBQ Chili
  • Good Samaritan: Meaty Connoisseurs
  • Pa. Keystone Cup Open Chili: Wild West Chili, Chris West​
  • ICS Pa. State Championship salsa: Randy Allen, Dire Wolf
  • Chili verde: Mike Singelton, Dirt Digger Chili
  • Traditional red chili: Nathan Gramm, HellBelly Chili
  • Ghon Eckley Memorial Youth Chili Competition: Emily Donnelly

For the full list of winners, visit the Hanover Chili Cook Off Facebook page.

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