When Jess told me that she had entered the contest I knew right away that I had a few extremely important pieces of advice that I needed to impart. I took her face in my hands and I told her, not unlike a chili-master whispers unto his protege, "If you want to win a chili cooking contest, you have to have a special ingredient that no one is expecting." Plain Jane chili, even if it's good, is not going to win the Golden Bean at the end of the day. I feel qualified to dispense this advice because, though I have never made chili before, I was a judge in a chili contest once when I was working at Jones Soda. There I learned that it's gotta be a little quirky, a little kooky, and also taste good.
When her and I sat down for the pre-contest interview I stared straight into her face and then asked, without blinking or breathing, "What does it take to win a chili contest?" Her reply was cryptic, perhaps beyond me as a non-chili maker, but I believe it must be wise--"a spoon of steel," she said.
Unfortunately I will be unable to attend the contest, as the call of duty and history cause my path to wind up the hill towards Des Moines-town this evening. But she, as well as you friends, enemies, frenemies and scoundrels, can rest in the knowledge that my spirit will be with her and her spoon of steel as she turns out a vat of my tasty namesake (for a brief period in the late 90's I had changed my middle name to "Chili", so I feel I can still claim that, though it only be a flicker from my wild days long forgotten).
I close with a few highlights from chili contest history:
|This is Chubs "Chubsy" Jones, he went on to eat his entire vat of chili to prove how "good it was" after coming in last place at the 3rd annual chili cook-off. He never recovered.|
This is Thad Parker, he won three chili cook-offs in row, the pressure to excel quickly drove him mad, and we knew he had snapped when he kept that same look on his face and held that pepper (he called it his "minion") to his face for four days straight. He was promptly placed in an asylum.
|This is known in the chili world as the "Greatest Poster for a Chili Contest Ever Invented."|