Chili Cook-off 2009

November 22, 2009 · 8 comments

in atlanta, dining out, misc food


After two years of crowded madness in a cramped townhome in the Liberty Park neighborhood, last night the 3rd Annual Liberty Park chili cook-off was held at Atlanta Brewing Company. The venue is very close to our neighborhood, and having attended a few (ok, a lot) of their Friday evening tastings, I knew the venue would be perfect for our size of event.

I made my chili the night before the event, to give the cooked pork and the beef some time to get to know each other.

My recipe calls for a lot of onion, green pepper, red pepper, and jalapenos. To cut each jalapeño, I stand it up vertically, then slice down on each side, creating what you see below. It’s very quick and easy, and leaves most of the seeds. Mincing them from this point is the pain in the ass. One of my friends took on this task for me last year, when we were making a 5 gallon batch for the Chomp and Stomp, and his hands were burning for a solid day.


That’s when I remembered that I have one of those fancy as-seen-on-TV chopping devices, which I never use, but seemed perfect for this task.


While I felt like a cheater, it really made this easy, and all the cuts were uniform. I think uniform cutting, of both vegetables and meats, are of high importance in a chili competition. Most people are only going to eat a few bites of each chili. If one of those bites has a super large chunk of green pepper, or a oddly large piece of sausage, it may be the difference in getting that person’s vote.


Once my vegetables had sautéed, and the spices were added, the meat was ready. I had browned the meat ahead of time, then hand crumbled it, one handful at a time, to ensure there weren’t any overly large pieces.


Finally, I add the tomatoes, and the ingredients that really adds the character to this chili – golden tequila and beer. Yeah, this is crap tequila, but the strong flavor is all that’s needed.


An hour later…


Some of my best work.


OK, on to the event

First off – we learned a few important things to remember for next year:

  1. At many locales, 25 crock pots on high will short the electric circuit and throw the breaker
  2. If you are going to move a table, take the chili off the tables, move the table by itself, then put the chili back on the table. Or else, all the chili may fall of the table (as seen below). I felt really bad for the 4 chilis that were lost before the tasting even started.


Those that lost chilis remained in good spirits (beer helps), and everyone else continued to setup. Some stations were fancier than others; last year’s champion, Annie, armed her station with chimichurri and cilantro. The spice bag in the chili was filled with juniper berries.


We ended up having over 130 people attend the event. Between the warehouse and the tasting room, there was plenty of space. Other than our power issue, the venue was outstanding.


A shot back into the tasting room…


Another shot while the tasting was in full effect


We opened up the eating around 5:15, then closed it at 6:15. After fifteen minutes of ballot counting, the crowd formed for the results.


Thanks to Laura B, we had a lovely ballot box, play on words included.


Aaron announcing the results…


The hardware


For the 3rd year in a row, Ryan Johnson took home the award for the Spiciest category. Surprisingly, Ryan’s chili was very palatable, as opposed to last year when it was pure mouth lava.


Kristin Nabers won “Best Unusual” with her fantastic white turkey chili. I voted for hers for this category – the turkey was flavorful, which can sometimes be a challenge with chili, and the creaminess from the cheese (no cream in this white chili) was spot on. I would love a bowl of this right now.


The award for “Best Overall” went to Daniel Owsley, Aaron Reddy, and Mike Good – aka, “Team Cowboy”. I actually voted for this chili too, which I thought was what a real “whole-meal” chili should taste like. It was flavorful, just enough spice, with almost a tomato/vinegar finish that was so savory, I immediately wanted another bite. While they did a bit of campaigning, and there a few other superb chilis, I think it deserved the award.


Many thanks to Atlanta Brewing Company for taking care of us so well (including cleaning up the spilled chili with a hose). The staff kept the beer flowing, and accommodated our every need. This venue can easily handful a lot more people, and knowing what we know now regarding their facilities and some of the challenges of throwing a party like this in an unfamiliar venue, I think we are going to really try to grow this event next year.

We were able to raise $385 for Project Open Hand, but if we can get two or three times the number of people next year, that number will grow in an accelerated fashion.

Thanks to everyone who attended, I hope ya’ll had a great time like I did.


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  • Ed

    Jimmy… glad to hear the chili event was a success! and sorry, I coulnd’t make it this time… I’ll be sure not to miss it next time.

  • Jim Sobeck

    I would have thought a bunch of Ga Tech grads would have known to move the chili before moving the table.

  • Nick S.

    Wow, impressive turnout. We hate we couldn’t make it. We’ll be sure to be there next year.

  • Preston C

    Was an awesome event…..gonna be even better next year. Be sure to look for the “How we made the winning chili video” by Aaron “Cowboy Hat” Reddy.

    I will get it to Jimmy soon.

  • David Orsini

    Great event Jimmy, thanks for putting this on. I say next year we add a post tasting 5K.

  • Kristin Nabers

    It was a fantastic event – can’t wait for next year!

  • Dennis

    Nice work Jimmy. Looks like a great time.
    Wish I could have made it.
    Next year.

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