Haute Chili

Promoters promise burning, throbbing excitement as top local chefs hungrily lust to score the award for Most Passionate Chili. Steaming, dripping hot. Yes, yes, yes, oh yes!

The sixth annual Hot Pursuit Chili Cook-Off, which benefits Planned Parenthood of Greater Miami, is a blend of seemingly unrelated elements -- the venerable nonprofit organization, rock and roll, art, subtropical setting -- just like the food of the day itself. Don't try to make sense of it, just enjoy.

Sunday afternoon on Lincoln Road more than a dozen chefs prepare their renditions of what was once a simple and thrifty family-dinner staple. A jury headed by Chief Justice of Chili and Metrozoo honcho Ron Magill will select the finest. Magill, widely accomplished at planning the parenthood of various animal species and a strong supporter of the local organization (for whom he provides animal sexuality lectures), downplays his judicial qualifications, modest other than in dimension. To wit: He's six feet six and weighs 220. "I eat a lot," he says simply. "This is an honor that just fell out of the sky, and I feel I'm not worthy. Look at the other judges: TV personalities, mayors. I'm intimidated. It's kinda scary."

Lending credence to the theory that chili remains outside the realm of culinary elitism, the top award last year went to Burdines Catering. But don't be fooled. The Burdines creation was subtly sublime. Judge for yourself; the idea here is to bring an appetite and indulge in the culinary creations without inhibition. And creative they are: duck chili, veggie chili, chili with ostrich, smoked chili, and much more. "The chefs are serious about their creations," says one organizer, "but the atmosphere of the event is festive."

Boosting the festiveness will be the Rockerfellas, the region's top purveyors of fiery Sixties-style rock and roll. Providing visual entertainment: artist Romero Britto's colorful take on the "Every Child a Wanted Child" theme, which will be reproduced on T-shirts for sale at the event.

The colorful fun and good eats are aimed at helping Planned Parenthood of Greater Miami, which provides reproductive health-care services and sexuality education while advocating reproductive rights. Miami remains among the nation's most troubled areas in terms of unintended pregnancies and sexual disease; the state ranks sixth nationally in numbers of teen pregnancies.

So savor some unique chili. And for those planning parenthood and the frugality it imposes, take note that the elaborate concoctions offered here go above and beyond the cheap and easy formula that made chili a family tradition in the first place. Consider it a last hurrah before life gets serious.

-- Greg Baker

The Hot Pursuit Chili Cook-Off takes place Sunday, November 1, from 2:00 to 6:00 p.m. at Euclid Avenue and Lincoln Road, Miami Beach. Tickets cost $35. Call 305-441-6677.

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Greg Baker