Like an old fable, chili cook-off delivers a recipe for success

When acting as an agent of change in Federal Way, consider a lesson you learned in kindergarten.

When acting as an agent of change in Federal Way, consider a lesson you learned in kindergarten.

In the fable “Stone Soup,” two travelers arrive in a village carrying only an empty pot. Villagers are reluctant to share food with the hungry travelers. So the travelers fill their pot with water and drop in a large stone, then place it over a fire in the village square.

They catch the attention of curious villagers, who are told this “stone soup” would taste even better with a little seasoning, a few vegetables, some garnish and so on.

Eventually, the villagers add enough ingredients to improve the soup — and create a meal for all to share.

The village created something out of seemingly nothing. The catalyst for cooperation came after the travelers offered an opportunity to share in their success, as opposed to a desperate plea for assistance.

This summer, Federal Way Farmers Market co-chair Rose Ehl got the ball rolling for a charity chili cook-off.

The event, slated for Sept. 27, pits Federal Way police against South King Fire and Rescue firefighters. Proceeds benefit Special Olympics and the South King Firefighters Foundation.

Much like the stone soup that started with an empty pot, the chili cook-off began with only a venue and an idea.

In the following weeks, volunteers and businesses stepped forward to sell or sponsor tickets as well as donate food and supplies. Police Chief Brian Wilson and Fire Chief Al Church recruited teams of cooks from their respective departments. Farmers Market board members researched legal requirements, such as food handling permits and health codes.

Thanks to donations and contributions, expenses for the chili cook-off will be minimal.

As the chili cook-off nears, so does the smell of success. Charity ultimately feeds this endeavor, but the recipe’s key ingredient is community organization. A few small steps, combined with a chance to help the less-fortunate, helped bring together resources as well as people willing to serve.

In the end, the chili will take center stage in attracting people and dollars to this month’s event. But the chili cook-off’s unsung hero — cooperation — deserves credit for working behind the scenes.

The chili cook-off runs 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sept. 27 at the Federal Way Farmers Market in The Commons mall parking lot. For tickets, which are $10, contact me at the e-mail address below.

Mirror editor Andy Hobbs: or (253) 925-5565.

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