If you’ve been following my blog you might remember I mentioned I would be competing in the Central Market Chili & Cornbread Cook-Off yesterday afternoon. My competition was not something to be sneezed at. Oh no-o-o they were not. It was clear that much thought and preparation went into each pot of chili and pan of cornbread. Every contestant there was a pleasure to meet and chat with. Each brought their own unique blend of chili and or cornbread, as well as personality.
The judges were given four categories on which to base their decisions. Those were creativity, presentation, flavor and passion. Some of us paid more attention to the presentation category than others. I brought some “props”, dried chiles, spurs, a snazzy cloth for my display space, LuLu’s paper mache chili pepper from 6th grade art class, a rusty metal “Lone Star”,an empty bottle of Lone Star beer, which had been added to the chili, and of course a tray with a bright, red chili pepper that I used to hold my blog cards!
After everyone was set up and had ample time to meet and greet the competition began. The judges were local firefighters and a fire chief. Now, if anyone could choose the “Winning” bowl of chili I suppose those guys are sufficiently qualified. All the CM employees present were introduced, the judges were introduced and next it was the participants’ opportunity to not only introduce ourselves but tell a story about our chili. Random numbers had been assigned and I was #5.
When it was my turn I told this story. “My Dad always prided himself on making a great bowl of chili and his chili is known as Lew’s Lone Star Chili. I now have a daughter who prides herself on being quite a good cook and she too has a recipe for what she considers to be the best bowl of chili. I agree each bowl is very good but for this cook-off I decided to meld the two recipes and make what would be the winning recipe. The two things that make my chili special is a bottle of Lone Star beer (which received hoots and hollers from the crowd) and I used ground elk, which came from Carter Mountain near Kremmling, Colorado. I’ve renamed the chili Lone Star Chili and I hope you’ll like it!” End of my story.
After the judges made their way around the room tasting and pondering each pot of hearty, red chili and delicious squares of cornbread they were escorted out of the cooking school to make their final decisions.
All of the contestants took this opportunity to score a bowl of chili or a piece of cornbread from each other and do our own taste comparisons. Everyone brought unique and delicious pots of chili. One lady used anchovies and chipotle, one sugar and vinegar, another used lots of garlic and ladled beans in the bottom of the bowls, one clever contestant put her chili right into her cornbread, calling in Cornbread con Carne.
After a while the judges returned with the CM folks in charge. It was announced that a winner had been selected. We all stood a little straighter, breathed a bit deeper and smiled bigger! Third place – drumroll please…. went to the clever lady with the Cornbread con Carne. Second place – drumroll please…went to “Grand Prize Chili”, the guy who dished beans into the bottom of the bowls. And our first place winner is……drumroll please….bada- bada- bada -bada -bada (drum rolls)….”LONE STAR CHILI”.
I know for a fact my mouth fell wide open before I smiled and clapped for myself! I felt a little goofy, happy, surprised and pleased to have been chosen the winner of the inaugural CM chili cook-off. For a split second my mind got all jumbled up and I thought to myself is that what I named my chili?
I was delighted that my cheering squad consisted of adoring hubby, Miss T, and my wonderful Mom. It’s nice to look up and see familiar faces grinning from ear to ear, looking at you with that “you did it” and I knew you would look. Thanks guys!
Oh, besides feeling totally pleased to have been the first place winner the CM folks added a little CM gift card for my future visits to the store. I’m reasonably sure I smiled the rest of the evening until my head hit the pillow and I closed my eyes. Well, truth be known I imagine I was still smiling even after the lights were out and I had drifted into la la land.