Lentils go loose on the Palouse

BY SHELTYN ROSE| Evergreen reporter

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Since 6 a.m. today, the lead chef of WSU Dining Services, Brian Guthmiller, has been creating more than 320 gallons of not-so-secret ingredient chili in honor of the National Lentil Festival.

In addition to the lentils, various vegetables, spices and seasonings, the recipe also calls for a twist: Mexican chocolate.

Michael Amore, executive chef of University Catering said, “It gives the chili a very deep, rich flavor, but not like a Hershey bar with all the sugar.”

The cocoa is essential, though it does not necessarily overpower the rest of the dish, Amore said.

“It’s like an orchestra,” he said. “The violin is a nice instrument, but you don’t necessarily notice it until it’s not there.”

WSU chefs created this specific recipe more than 15 years ago, and it has made an appearance at the festival every year since.

The chili itself is vegetarian, and the 320 gallons use 400 pounds of locally grown lentils donated by the Mader family’s Palouse Brand farm.

In addition to the lentils, Director of Dining Services Gary Coyle said the family is also responsible for supplying the university with crops like wheat for use in the dining halls on campus.

Between gathering ingredients, cooking and transportation, Amore said the process is nerve wracking.

The chili is cooked in two batches between three 80-gallon kettles before being poured into multiple very large thermoses and loaded onto a truck. When the chili reaches Reaney Park it is dumped into a giant metal pot that will be stirred throughout the day.

“Part of our mission as a university is to help make things accessible to the public,” Amore said.

The pot will serve anyone and everyone from 5-8 p.m. Friday for free.

Established in 1989, the festival takes over Reaney Park for two days of activities and performances celebrating community while showcasing the most popular legume on the Palouse.

In addition to the chili, on Friday there will also be a beer and wine garden as well as musical performances by local bands and a performance by American Idol winner Kris Allen. 

Saturday’s festivities will include a 5K fun run, softball tournament, multiple cooking demos, 3-on-3 basketball and a coloring contest.

The Grand Parade starts at 11 a.m. Saturday and will include floats, rodeo queens and fire trucks.

Vendors will be set up on both days, and those serving food are required to include lentils in their dishes whether they’re serving soup or ice cream.

All ages are welcome and the festival is free to attend.

For a full list of events and times as well as the lentil chili recipe, visit www.lentilfest.com.