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The Springs Food Pantry’s Chowdah Chowdown last November brought in over $22,000. (Photo credit: Richard Lewin)

There’s something about showing up for a good cause that sure does make you feel warm and fuzzy inside.

At noon this Saturday, April 1st, the fifth annual Springs Chili Chowdown will certainly take care of the “warm” part as cooks from across the South Fork gather for a friendly competition to benefit the Springs Food Pantry, after a nearly three-year hiatus of the event due to Covid.

“It’s the ‘hottest’ event of the year!” enthused Holly Reichart-Wheaton, director and chairwoman of the Springs Food Pantry, who will be hosting the event inside the Springs Firehouse at 179 Fort Pond Boulevard.

The Springs Food Pantry has helped feed over 250 families since the start of the pandemic. (Photo credit: Richard Lewin)

“Even though this year will be our fifth annual chili fundraiser, we haven’t been able to bring the community and chefs back together since the pandemic,” Reichart-Wheaton says. “Unlike the past couple of years where we held the event as a drive-thru, take-out venue, we’ve lined up 20 chefs [and] restaurants to serve up stellar samples of their delicious chilis.”

For $50, attendees will have access to unlimited samplings of the dozens of different styles of the classic Tex-Mex stew. Buy your tickets here. This year’s line-up will feature a slew of South Fork chefs representing some favorite local restaurants and eateries, along with representatives from several East End organizations, businesses and civic groups, all vying for the coveted title of chili champion.

According to Reichart-Wheaton, contenders will be judged in three categories. “Best in Service” will include local fire departments along with the U.S. Coast Guard Shinnecock, while “Spiciest” will be judged by Greg Kessler, owner of Amagansett rare pepper farm, The Hoppy Acre. “People’s Choice,” which is best overall, is judged by everyone in attendance.

In 2022, the Springs Food Pantry fed nearly 42,000 recipients. (Photo credit: Amy Zavatto)

Among this year’s dozens of participants are local chefs Peter Ambrose, Carolyn Stec, Derek Freedman, Jeremy Blutstein, Evan Tessler and Phil Conlon, along with reps from the East End Food Institute, One Stop Market and Caribbean-style restaurant Doubles, to name a few.

In addition to the abundance of on-hand yummy grub, there will also be wine from Channing Daughters Winery along with a special brew available from Springs Brewery. Entertainment will be provided by East Hampton resident and singer/songwriter Josh Brussell.

“Everyone will have a chance to vote for their favorites, with trophies (and more importantly, bragging rights) awarded in three different categories,” Reichart-Wheaton says. “In addition to the marvelous tastings, it will not only make this a fun event but it will help support our fundamental mission of fighting food insecurity within our community.”

East Hampton has one of the highest poverty rates in Suffolk County. Although the median household income clocked in above $125,000, persons in poverty were at 12.4 percent, according to estimates offered by the United States Census Bureau. Last year alone, the food pantry had nearly 42,000 recipients. Established in 1992, Springs Food Pantry operates as a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit out of the Springs Community Presbyterian Church at 5 Old Stone Highway. Distribution is every Wednesday from 3 to 6:30 p.m.. To make a donation, click here.