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Aircraft Maintenance Airman wins big in chili competition

Airmen with the 182nd Airlift Wing, Illinois Air National Guard, scoop chili onto their plates at the wing’s ninth-annual chili cook-off in Peoria, Ill., May 17, 2017. Staff Sgt. Nicholas Freeman, an aerospace maintenance journeyman with the 182nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, Illinois Air National Guard, won first place in overall points, first place for consistency and tied for second place in the People’s Choice vote against 13 other chilies. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Lealan Buehrer)

Airmen with the 182nd Airlift Wing, Illinois Air National Guard, scoop chili onto their plates at the wing’s ninth-annual chili cook-off in Peoria, Ill., May 17, 2017. Staff Sgt. Nicholas Freeman, an aerospace maintenance journeyman with the 182nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, Illinois Air National Guard, won first place in overall points, first place for consistency and tied for second place in the People’s Choice vote against 13 other chilies. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Lealan Buehrer)

Airmen with the 182nd Airlift Wing, Illinois Air National Guard, examine chilies at the wing’s ninth-annual chili cook-off in Peoria, Ill., May 17, 2017. Staff Sgt. Nicholas Freeman, an aerospace maintenance journeyman with the 182nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, Illinois Air National Guard, won first place in overall points, first place for consistency and tied for second place in the People’s Choice vote against 13 other chilies. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Lealan Buehrer)

Airmen with the 182nd Airlift Wing, Illinois Air National Guard, examine chilies at the wing’s ninth-annual chili cook-off in Peoria, Ill., May 17, 2017. Staff Sgt. Nicholas Freeman, an aerospace maintenance journeyman with the 182nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, Illinois Air National Guard, won first place in overall points, first place for consistency and tied for second place in the People’s Choice vote against 13 other chilies. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Lealan Buehrer)

PEORIA, Ill. -- An Aircraft Maintenance Squadron Airman’s recipe won three awards May 17 at the 182nd Airlift Wing’s ninth annual chili cook-off in Peoria, Illinois.

Judges made up of unit members evaluated 14 chilies for presentation, consistency and taste. Staff Sgt. Nicholas Freeman, an aerospace maintenance journeyman, took first place in overall points, as well as first place for consistency and tied for second place in the People’s Choice vote.

Freeman said it feels good to have his chili win when he didn’t think it had a chance.

“In my opinion, good chili is made with real, fresh ingredients, and you have to let it slow cook for hours,” he said. “It takes about two hours to cook and prep all of the ingredients to put them in the slow cooker, and it takes a lot of tastes and adding just little more here and there until the flavor is where I want it.”

Freeman’s win marked another successful year of the morale-supporting competition.

Master Sgt. Angela Rudd, a personnel craftsman with the 182nd Force Support Squadron, created the cook-off in 2007. The wing has held the competition every year since, except in 2008 and 2010.

“Every year I have several people ask me when the next cook off will be,” she said. “Some let me know they have been working on recipes throughout the year, and others let me know they would love to be judges. Not to mention all of the fun, light-hearted, playful banter between chili contestants and some people accusing me of fixing the contests because they didn't win.”

The Communication Flight’s Master Sgt. Adam Smith won second place in overall points and first place for taste, while Force Support Squadron Master Sgt. Fookwa McGee’s recipe won third place overall, first place for presentation and first place in the People’s Choice award.

New this year was a traveling trophy, voucher for one pizza and beverage at the installations all ranks club and a certificate awarded to the People’s Choice winner.

As the winner of the overall points category, Freeman was awarded with his name added to the annual cook-off plaque, a five year membership to the base club, a pizza and beverage voucher and a certificate.