What has turned into one of the most successful fundraising events along the Emerald Coast, surprisingly all started with a small backyard barbeque. Now in its 12th year, Chi Chi Miguel Weekend returns April 5-7 for three full days of barbeque, golf, shopping, wine and revelry, all in the name of charity.
But this spirited barbeque competition that has raised millions of dollars for local charities since 2006 wouldn’t be possible without co-founders Valerie and Mike “Chi Chi Miguel” Thompson of Thompson 31Fifty Wines. Friends of the Lagasses and long-time barbeque enthusiasts, the Thompsons originally created the event as a competition between friends over who could barbeque the best ribs. From then on, Valerie planned and hosted the event annually at the couple’s home, inviting vintners and friends from across the country to join in the fun.
After Mike joined the board of the Emeril Lagasse Foundation in 2009, Emeril decided to jump in the ring to see if “wine guys” could really take on pitmasters.
“When Emeril heard about Chi Chi Miguel he asked, ‘Can wine guys really cook?’ and he joined the event,” said Mike. “Over the years many vintners have come to challenge Emeril, and the rest is history.”
As more and more vintners and well-known chefs joined the competition, the event grew from a small backyard affair into a star-studded throw down put on by the Emeril Lagasse Foundation.
Although the Foundation now hosts the annual Chi Chi Miguel Weekend, the Thompsons are forever grateful for the community’s support that helped grow the event to the size and prominence it is today.
Many supporters have been outside of the area and outside the state of Florida, but the local community has been instrumental in helping us grow and support the charities on the Gulf Coast,” said Mike. “We have so many great friends in this community and appreciate all of their support, as do our local charities.
And the Thompsons don’t stop there. Valerie is the founder of the Sip & Shop portion of Chi Chi Miguel Weekend, which has raised thousands for Alaqua Animal Refuge. Her volunteer work with the Emerald Coast Children’s Advocacy Center – another beneficiary of the event – led to the naming of the center’s Valerie Thompson Hope & Healing Wing.
Mike holds an impressive resume of community involvement as well, including serving as a board member of the American Diabetes Association of Houston and volunteering with the Children’s Volunteer Health Network, Food for Thought and Make-A-Wish Foundation.
Valerie and Mike are also devoted supporters of the Emeril Lagasse Foundation, attending annual events Boudin, Bourbon & Beer and Carnival du Vin and donating countless hours of time and funds in support of our mission.
After our dear friends Susan and Sparky Lovelace introduced us to Alden and Emeril, and we saw all the amazing things they do for others, we were all in,” said Valerie. “We are overwhelmed with the wonderful things happening at the Foundation’s beneficiaries and with all the other causes it supports. I have been to the schools, met with the kids and watched the success stories. It is so humbling.
Likewise, the Emeril Lagasse Foundation is proud to work with the Thompsons in support of our mission and the continued success of Chi Chi Miguel Weekend. For more information about the event or to purchase tickets, click here. Learn more about how you can get involved or make a donation by visiting our Get Involved page.