A nationwide search to find the UK’s top chilli chef is coming to South Shields with the winner also guaranteed a place in the lucrative World Chilli Championship in Alabama.

The first Great North Feast, held in Bents Park over the August Bank Holiday weekend (25-28), will feature the heats and final of the 2017 UK Chilli Cook-Off Championship.

The top three from South Shields will then compete in September’s Grand Final against the successful chefs from seven other Cook-Offs taking place around the country.  As well as having the chance of lifting the UK title, the winner of the Great North Feast will also be entered into the world final where there is $35,000 of prize money on offer.

“Whether you are a student or in your 70s, everybody thinks their chilli is the best – and now it’s your time to prove it,” said Mark Deakin, one of the organisers of the Great North Feast.

Over two days of heats, up to 10 teams will have four hours to cook from scratch a gallon of their finest chilli.  Under the competition’s strict rules, the judges – who will taste one spoonful of each batch – will base their marks on appearance, aroma, consistency, taste and aftertaste.   The best will take part in the final on Bank Holiday Monday and do it all over again. 

It costs £10 to enter a team in the competition and there is no limit on the number of team members. As well as qualifying for the UK final at the Upton Cheyney Chilli Festival – near Bristol – and the World Chilli Championship, the South Shields winning team will also receive a prize of £150. The runners win £75 and there is a £25 prize for coming third. More details are available from the competition website www.ukchillicookoff.co.uk/.

“The beauty of making chilli is that you can make so many different varieties and it’s not all about the heat,” said Mark, who knows a thing or two about chilli.  For the past six years he and his wife Shelley have organised the hugely successful North East Chilli Fest, which this year takes place between 30 June and 2 July at Seaton Sluice and promises to be bigger and better than ever. 

The Chilli Cook-Off is just one of many mouth-watering competitions taking place at the first Great North Feast.

“We’re looking to break quite a few records, but it’s all about having fun and a great time. It’s going to be a massive celebration of food and drink but it will also bring together the community for a social eating experience which has never been seen before in the North East,” said Mark.

Before then the Deakins are bringing their ever-popular Proper Food and Drink Festival to Bents Park over the Spring Bank Holiday weekend (27-29 May). It will feature around 60 producers, bars and live music.