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L.E.A.’S Diner successfully defends title in VTC’s annual chili cook-off

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WATERTOWN — L.E.A.’S Diner in Heuvelton still has the best chili in the land, according to people who voted in the 23rd Annual North Country Chili Cook-Off, an event that was again held in a modified format this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

As it did last year, L.E.A.’s Diner received the most votes this year, earning the People’s Choice Award.

The annual North Country Chili Cook-Off is organized by the Volunteer Transportation Center, Inc., Watertown, and its proceeds help to fund its operations.

Meme’s Diner in Felts Mills collected the most donations, earning the Top Fundraiser Award. Meme’s also won that category last year.

“It was a real Yogi Berra moment. It was like déjà vu all over again,” Jeremiah S. Papineau, director of communications and Foundation Director for the VTC, said in a news release. “We almost couldn’t believe it but, after everything was counted and recounted to be sure, we saw each of them bring home the same honors they brought home last year. It was amazing.”

That was a sentiment shared by Steven Bogardus, who owns L.E.A.’S Diner with his wife, Tasha.

“It was absolutely amazing to win again. We’re speechless. We’re at a loss for words,” said Mr. Bogardus.

This year’s experience was even more special, he added, due to the increase in participating locations from 28 last year to 34 this year. Last year, L.E.A.’S Diner was the only business to participate in St. Lawrence County. This year, eight others joined them.

“Participating again was more exciting because there was more competition, which made it more fun,” said Mr. Bogardus.

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