Oak and Ash wins 2024 Ice Time Chili Crawl

Published 4:25 pm Monday, February 5, 2024

DOWAGIAC — Restaurants brought the fire as they competed to be the public’s favorite in the Dowagiac Ice Time Festival’s annual Chili Crawl Competition.

When the dust settled, Oak and Ash BBQ emerged victorious with a first place finish.

Competitors include The Baker’s Rhapsody, The Eagles Lodge, Front Street Crossing/COA, Oak and Ash BBQ, Wood Fire Trattoria,Wounded Minnow Saloon and Lutz’s Drive-in.

The public sampled each restaurant’s chili for free and then voted for their favorite on ballots which were available at each site.

Dowagiac native and Oak and Ash Pittmaster Maleigha Shemich crafted the winning formula. 

“It feels like Christmas,” Shemick said. “It’s actually the first trophy I have ever won.”

The win was especially sweet for Shemick, who worked in the building when it was Zeke’s for the last five years of its existence before starting her own business in Cassopolis. Shemick recently returned to work in the building with Oak and Ash as a prep cook and is now the pittmaster and is enjoying the experience.

“They stuck me right in and taught me most of everything that I know,” she said. “They’re great people.”

While the building and restaurant inside it has changed, for Shemick, the goal of providing the customers with a delicious experience remains the same.

“It’s almost like I’m still at home,” she said. “When I walked in, I was like ‘you don’t need to show me where that’s at; I know.’ It’s incredible. These people are amazing.”

Corporate underwriters of the Ice Time Festival include Clark Chapel/Starks Family Funeral Homes, Dowagiac Credit Union, Dowsett Chiropractic, Family Fare, Lyons Industries and Who Knew Consignment.