SCHUYLERVILLE -- A spicy mix of home cooking and one of the world's oldest professions are being thrown together to help area food pantries.
On Jan. 28, local celebrity chefs will bring their chili recipes to the Saratoga Clay Arts Center where a "chili bowl challenge" will be staged - for both bragging rights and a good cause.
A portion of proceeds from the event will benefit the Schuylerville Area Food and Emergency Relief Fund and the Franklin Community Center food pantries.
"A lot of people remember us around the holidays," said Mike McLoughlin, president of the Schuylerville Area Food Emergency Relief. "People give more around Thanksgiving and Christmas. But after the holidays, it tends to be forgotten about, unfortunately, and the food dwindles down."
Demand for the food pantry's services has increased 40 to 50 percent over the past year. The facility is located in a 1,100-square-foot space adjacent to Saratoga Town Hall and Schuylerville Central School.
Demand at The Franklin Community Center in Saratoga Springs has quadrupled since 2004.
"We're still carrying the benefits of Christmas time, so we're fortunate starting out the year, but the same thing happened last year, and it wasn't more than three or four months until we were running low," said Bo Goliber, coordinator of development at the Saratoga Springs pantry. "We're serving close to 500 people a month, so it's going to go pretty quickly."
Admission to the chili bowl challenge is $1 or one non-perishable food item, and more than 500 hand-crafted chili bowls made for the event will be sold for $15 each.
"Every little bit helps, and with any money that is raised, we can take a dollar and buy anywhere from $10 to $12 worth of food from The Regional Food Bank (of Northeastern New York) in Albany," said McLoughlin, who will be serving some of his homemade chili during the challenge.
Jasper Alexander, of Hattie's Restaurant; Rob Chrust, of Amigos Cantina; Kim Klopstock. of Lily & the Rose Gourmet Catering; and Bob Kovachick, meteorologist at WNYT-TV NewsChannel 13, will also be serving up their homemade chili.
Clay artist Jill Fishon-Kovachick founded the Clay Arts Center in 2011 at the site of the former Schuyler Guest House. She spent several months renovating the rooms into 13 studio spaces, a gallery and a classroom where a variety of lessons are taught throughout the week to both children and adults.
All the studio spaces have been rented by artists, and the center's founder is pleased by the number of area clay workers using the facility.
"The location was perfect. We're on two acres of property where we can fire our kilns. The parking is good, and the building lent itself well to it also," said Fishon-Kovachick, who first caught the pottery bug as young girl while visiting a creative arts camp in Connecticut.
"My heart has been in clay since I was 11 years old," she said. "It's been an amazing journey."