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Judging chili

by CHARLES H. FEATHERSTONE
Staff Writer | April 20, 2023 1:30 AM

MOSES LAKE — Rich Mueller has some advice for anyone looking to judge a chili cookoff.

“I’m going to put away any predispositions,” said Mueller, who runs the Grant County International Airport for the Port of Moses Lake. “I see some chilis over there that would not normally be my go-to chilis, but I’m just going to forget all that right now.”

Giving everyone the benefit of the doubt and opening his mind to new recipes was a theme for the day.

As he spoke, Mueller was standing in the large break room of Greenpoint Technologies on Monday along with five other invited guests — Moses Lake School Superintendent Monty Sabin, Moses Lake Mayor Don Myers, Moses Lake Police Chief Kevin Fuhr, POML Executive Director Don Kersey and Moses Lake Deputy Fire Chief Pete Kunjara — to judge one of the company’s regular employee chili cookoffs. There were 10 chilis on offer, from your fairly standard bean-and-beef affair to a more exotic chicken alfredo chili, plus six different types of cornbread.

It was the first time outsiders have been invited to judge the company’s chili contests, according to Greenpoint Administrative Assistant Amy Ward, who added the company — which creates customized interiors for high-end jetliners for heads of state and executives of large corporations — takes such morale-boosting exercises very seriously.

“There are awards for first-, second- and third-place chili, and a number-one cornbread award as well,” she said before the contest. “I wanted to invite the upper echelon of Moses Lake to take part in this and be judges.”

Located in one of the hangars at the GCIA, Greenpoint — owned by French aerospace giant Safran — has created customized interiors for jetliners including a luxury 777 interior for Illinois-based Crystal Cruises, and has done work on at least one of the specialized 757 aircraft that serves as the official transports for the vice president of the United States. The company reveals little about its work, though it has won numerous awards for luxury interior designs and concepts in the past, and employs around 40 people in Moses Lake, according to Ward.

The Monday contest for best chili and best cornbread in the hangar is a chance to bring employees together, bond a bit and promote company morale, according to Greenpoint Vice President of Production Justin Morigeau.

“One of our values is fun,” Morigeau said. “We’ve been doing this for 15-plus years and we’re keeping up the tradition. We’re just trying to keep morale high.”

“It just gets the team together,” Morigeau added. “We do these things every other month or so.”

Leland Thompson, completions manager for Greenpoint and winner of first place for his smoked chili, in which all of the ingredients are smoked for several hours before being cooked together, agreed.

“It’s just fun,” he said. “We do it once a year. We do other things like a Super Bowl soup cook-off.”

Moses Lake Mayor Don Myers said invitations to judge things like chili cook-offs are one of the things that come with being mayor.

“When they did the invite, they had me at free food,” he said.

Charles H. Featherstone can be reached at cfeatherstone@columbiabasinherald.com.

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CHARLES H. FEATHERSTONE/COLUMBIA BASIN HERALD

Chili cookoff winner and Greenpoint Technologies Completions Manager Leland Thompson after winning first prize on Monday for his smoked chili.

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CHARLES H. FEATHERSTONE/COLUMBIA BASIN HERALD

Amy Ward, an administrative assistant at Greenpoint Technologies, holding up the first- and second-place medals awarded for the best chili at one of the company’s regular morale-boosting events, its annual chili cookoff on Monday.

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CHARLES H. FEATHERSTONE/COLUMBIA BASIN HERALD

Moses Lake School Superintendent Monty Sabin and Grant County International Airport Director Rich Mueller carefully judge some of the 10 chilis entered in Greenpoint Technologies’ annual chili competition on Monday.

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CHARLES H. FEATHERSTONE/COLUMBIA BASIN HERALD

The 10 chilis and six different kinds of cornbread entered into competition on Monday.