One of Dan’s partners at work (Hi Craig!) convinced him to participate in a Chili Cook Off, hosted by a company that our firm works with on occasion. The firm had previously participated in the event, but this was Dan’s first Chili Cook Off. It was a fun networking event, complete with beer mugs made of ice, a live band, and Dan’s amazing chili recipe. Spoiler Alert….
………………we’ll save you the suspense, we didn’t win. But we had a great time anyway.
About a month prior to the event, we submitted our list of requested ingredients to the sponsoring company. We were allowed to bring our own “secret” ingredients on the day of the event if we wanted, so Dan chose to bring his homemade chili powder. Dan made the powder a couple of nights prior to the cook-off, since we had to be there early in the morning.
When we arrived at the event location, all our ingredients and tools were laid out for us (aside from the secret ingredient of course).
Our ingredients included a GIANT bag of “chili grind” beef. Dan ordered this kind of beef for the cook-off, even though he usually uses sirloin that he cuts up himself. We weren’t sure we would have the time to cut up that much meat at the event. One of the other participants at the cook-off later told us that we could have ordered pre-cut sirloin. Next year maybe. (Unless that guy was trying to psyche us out for next year by telling us we wouldn’t have to cut up our own meat. Hmmmm).
Dan preparing onions for the chili. Note the life-size wagon and fake outhouse in the background. The event location was part rustic/western-movie-set-front, part wedding/convention reception, and all fun-to-be-there-instead-of-work-on-a-Friday.
We had to brown the beef in batches.
Uncharacteristically, I decided to help Dan cook. I prepared the jalapenos (all 10 of them) by cutting them in half, de-seeding them, and removing the white inner rib (using my fingers instead of the end of a spoon, as we have written about before). These elements are where most of the spice resides. Shortly thereafter, I had an itch near my left eye, which I promptly scratched with one of my unwashed fingers, causing most of the residual spice to reside in/near my eyeball. Then I died. Or at least I wanted to. Especially after accidentally touching the other eye while frantically trying to stop the burning. Really, really painful. This is one of the many 1,000s of reasons I don’t cook.
Terrible picture of onions browning.
Lots of garlic for the chili.
Dan (the professional) wisely takes over the chopping of the jalepenos.
One of the guys on the team next to us showed his spirit by placing a Texas-flag-themed chef’s toque on top of his cowboy hat. Nicely done.
The afore-mentioned beer mugs made of ice. With beer. And insulated glove to hold the beer mug, branded with the sponsoring company’s logo. Genius.
Ice-beer break for the chef.
The sponsoring company assigned a sous chef to each participating team. Ours was Jeffrey. Bless you, Jeffrey, for always making sure we had all we needed, including ice mugs with beer and an eye-wash kit for my jalapeno-related injury.
I don’t know the name of the band that played at the event, but they were great and played a good variety of music.
Several of the teams decorated their stations, including this one, with what I overheard was a “javelina.” They placed in the competition (even though we tasted their chili and didn’t think it was very good. But their decorations were cool. Good Sportsmanship, FTW!)
This firm’s station was also decorated very well.
Paper mache (?) jalepeno with green and red colored lights. Cute.
I do exist! Rare photo of me, checking my blackberry while the chili cooks. Who knew that an apron was such a flattering accessory? (Although the slouch is not. Sorry, Mom)
Chili cooks, while Dan’s blackberry sits on the tablecloth slowly saturating with our melting ice mugs.
Local celebrity chef and Chili Cook Off Judge Dean Fearing stops by during the cook time to see how things are going. He told Dan that the color of the chili was beautiful, and suggested that Dan turn the heat down since the pot was rather thin. Good tip.
Chef Fearing noticed me taking pics and did not hesitate to pose for the buddy photo op.
We really liked this venue, especially for a Chili Cook Off (given our vast experience with same).
Another team near us had their own chef shirts made for the event (Dan was only slightly jealous). The prior year, they hired spokesmodels to wear outfits, carry pom-poms & be “Chil-Leaders.” (Dan is now slightly more jealous).
Judging time! Dan looks on while Chef Fearing tastes our chili.
After the first bite (unfortunate photo aside), Chef Fearing nodded his head, as if to say, “yes this chili is good.” He had a couple more bites, then told Dan, “this is authentic, man.” Direct quote and pretty good compliment, we think (remember, we didn’t win).
But we did serve quite a bit of chili – almost the entire pot!
Chef Fearing (with
his assistant important AlixPartners executive) takes the stage to present the awards.
And the winner is…..
Not us! But you knew that, and we really aren’t bitter. Dan cooked a great batch of his really good chili recipe and we had several people (both colleagues and non-colleagues) tell us that they liked ours best. Good enough for us!
Also good, the amount of discs we honestly won in our voting box. In an obvious coup d’etat, a single team won the most discs in every single category. Clearly their voting box was “fixed,” but we still had quite a few discs in ours — look at all the yellow (“People’s Choice”)! All competition aside (or most, for Dan), we had fun in our first Chili Cook Off. Many thanks to our work friend Craig for the opportunity!