Cordy Williamson knows how to put together a winning team – whether it’s at work or cooking chili and chicken wings for a community competition.
Williamson’s group of Duke Energy teammates has won awards at the Greater Florence (S.C.) Chamber of Commerce’s Annual Kickin’ Chicken Wing & Chili Festival three years in a row.
When a call went out three years ago for Duke Energy’s Southern Region Operations Center to participate in the event, Williamson, the building’s unofficial chef, accepted the challenge. He put together a team for the cook-off, knowing he chose people who’d bring something to support the meal.
“It makes us feel like we’re all one,” Williamson said. “We all come together and cook. It brings us together like a family.”
The family is Andrew Baylor and Jay Bishop in Vegetation Management and Kayla Holland-Woods in Targeted Undergrounding. They won first place at the festival in October.
Williamson started as a Duke Energy lineworker in Laurinburg, N.C., in 1960. For 60 years, he’s served the company in many roles – reading meters, construction, inspector and now as the division vegetation management specialist of the Coastal and Pee Dee zone.
The Duke Energy team’s cooking skills are well-known in the community. Williamson’s chicken wings and Bishop’s grandfather’s chili recipe attract a large crowd. Michael Miller, president of the Greater Florence Chamber of Commerce, places their table strategically – they need room for three lines, 20 people deep.
But don’t ask Williamson for the recipe. He’s like his mom when it comes to cooking and writing down recipes: He just doesn’t do it. “It’s just something I put together myself,” Williamson said of his secret recipe for chicken wings. “If you were threatening to shoot me, I couldn’t tell you what’s in it.”
The team has brought home multiple awards: In 2017, they took first place in the chili contest; in 2018 they won second place for chili; and last year, they placed first for wings, winning $500. Each year, they’ve donated the award money to the Pee Dee Land Trust, a nonprofit with a mission that “defines natural, agricultural, and historic resources as appropriate for conservation.”
“What they (Pee Dee Land Trust) really do is protect tomorrow,” Bishop said. “We decided Pee Dee Land Trust because it’s an environmental organization and that’s what we do. We’re not in the same business, but out of all the charities out there, it fit our bill best.”
Only local individuals and businesses participate in the event, Miller said. There’s room for just 16 teams for the chili contest and 16 teams for the chicken wings. Dargan Street in downtown Florence closes for the evening for live music, chili, wings and beer. Proceeds help the chamber fund educational programs such as Junior Leadership Florence County 4-H and Fellows in Education with The School Foundation.
“When you get local entities involved in a fun competition,” Miller said, “it’s a lot more interesting because you have family and friends of people who are cooking. It turns into a huge festival downtown with about 2,500 to 3,000 people attending.”
Jay Bishop’s chili recipe
Use Jay Bishop’s award-winning recipe to make venison and sausage chili for family and friends.
2 pounds ground beef or 2 packs of deer cube steak
1 pound hot pork sausage
2 cans pinto beans
2 cans black beans
1 cup chopped onions
2 cloves garlic
1 can diced tomatoes with garlic, basil and oregano
1 15-ounce can tomato sauce
1 can mild diced tomatoes with green chilis
1 10-ounce can beef consommé/broth
1/2 tablespoon hot sauce, such as Texas Pete
1 tablespoon cumin
1 tablespoon garlic powder
5 tablespoons chili powder
Cook meat. Let the meat drain while you add all the other ingredients to a crockpot.
Add the meat, cook on high for an hour, and then low for four hours.
Serve with cheddar cheese, sour cream and cornbread.
Makes 4 quarts.