Sunday, October 3, 2010

World Championship Chili Cookoff

October 2nd is LIVESTRONG Day. We dedicated this blog and the fun we had to all those who have been affected by cancer. We are are, we are fighting, we will. We must have HOPE. FIGHT BACK!!!

The energy on the second day of the World Championship Chili Cookoff was incredible and choosing how to illustrate in words and pictures turned out to be harder than we thought. So, we’ll start with some of the stories Mike and Mary Alice Kropp shared with us on Friday night and take it from there.

When we asked about any “whoopsies” that they might have experienced Mike (on the left prepping some cilantro) was quick to share two that he thought made for good stories. In 2007 Mike placed 4th in the World Championship for Red Chili, something he is and should be quite proud of. That year during a busy lineup of back to back weekend competitions disaster struck and his pot tipped over spilling competition chili over on the adjacent cooler. Picture Mike and a friend scraping chili back into a pot in hopes of salvaging it! More recently Mike had another unfortunate experience when he poured tomato sauce into the Chili Verde pot, only realizing it at the last of the sauce hit the pot. Bummer! Not one to give up, he plodded on and submitted his Chili Verde with a some added tomato to the judges. As you might expect the judges commented on the color and flavor and a good finish wasn’t to be had. In the end it makes a great story win or lose.

Saturday brought the wonderful fall weather that everyone was hoping for. Margot and I headed to the Welcome Center to hook up our press passes. All of the volunteers were friendly and helpful, another confirmation of the family theme we experienced the night before. We laughed that hanging out at the welcome center would be a story in itself with so many Manchester personalities coming through.

This story isn’t worth telling without the next happening being mentioned. We weren’t inside the event but 90 seconds and we were approached with the question “what are you doing right now?” Our answer had to do with finding competitors and guests to interview, but that would have to wait. I (Jason) was asked to participate as a judge in the salsa competition. I had to ask if they were sure because I had never done anything like that before. They assured me that there would be other new faces and that judging always included volunteers to keep everything fair. "Where do I sign up?" But, we are going to make you wait for another post for that story.

This event brought out the many faces of Manchester playing host to folks from out of town that hail from everywhere. The Rustic Overtones provided a nice groove for several hours during the afternoon and people filled the aisles between the cooking tents, the beer garden and the restaurant tents. Whether it was competitors working furiously to finish their pot or serving samples to lines of chili fans, the excitement was palpable.

The growing crowd.

Patiently waiting for the sample pot to be ready.

Many competitors were extremely social with guests.

Friends enjoying some chili on a beautiful day.

A DIY sample serving utensil. Brilliant!

A cancer survivor shouts out loud and proud on LIVESTRONG day!

Rick and Susie Decker from California. Six time World Championship
competitors. They had quite a trailer based kitchen they towed from home!

Scott Barrett carefully tending to his competition entry.

Chili Verde sample from Joni Deere winner of Kansas State. She
said "she converts a lot of red chili fans with this."

Margot and our friend Will picking up a sample.

Maureen Barrett, 2009 World Champion in Red Chili.

A red chili sample. None of the red chili's we tried bowled us over.
Sunday will bring on the People's Choice samples to try.

The back of a shirt Margot saw at the cookoff. Sums it up pretty well.

We caught up with LeeRoy Watson a couple of times, first when we picked up a sample and a second time when he was cradling his Chili Verde entry on the way to the judging table. As you can see from the picture below, he means business and watches his operation with focused attention. But is pays off, he and his Chili Verde came in 2nd place in the People’s Choice competition on Saturday. Congratulations to LeeRoy and his whole family! We are so happy to have met him on Friday night so that we could come back to cheer him on. We included a photo of our People's Choice ballot that helped propel him to a great finish. What fun! We had never had Chili Verde until we tried his sample. Immediate conversion. The flavors are fresh and the soft texture of the pork is incredible. The mellow heat from the green chilies is totally different. He shared his recipe with me in hopes that I could take away a few tips to try my hand at Chili Verde for the first time at home. I'll try.

Would you want to cook in his kitchen?

Congratulations LeeRoy!!

We did hear some concerned words from a number of cookoff-goers about the amount of samples available and that some booths had completely run out even before the 3 PM closing time suggested by the brochure. There are two sides to this issue. There is reasonable ground to assume that a chili cookoff event would have an abundance of samples available to the public. Not being familiar with chili cookoffs we started out under that assumption. After talking with competitors on Friday night though, we quickly understood that unless they are competing in the People’s Choice event they aren’t going to have a huge volume to sample, and either way it might not be their prized chili. As one competitor said, “we aren’t here to give out samples, we are here to win an award.” Understandable when you have all the facts. The point we took away from our understanding coupled with the comments we overheard from cookoff -goers is that more emphasis needs to be placed on getting this truth out, especially to people new to how cookoffs work and in a city that isn’t known for this type of event.

The business of the day was carried out in the judging tent. In the picture below you can see the judges circling around tables of numbered containers sampling, scoring and deciding the 2010 Chili Verde World Champions.

The full results from Saturday’s competitions can be found at the ICS web site. Check back tomorrow for stories from Red Chili day.


--Margot & Jason

3 comments: said...

That is awesome! Can't believe what a big even it was. How did the salsa judging go? That chili or chile? verde dish looked awesome. And I would love to see more pics from the couple who traveled with a fancy kitchen behind them! - Glad you guys had a chance to do this - Meg

Belinda @zomppa said...

What an incredible adventure! Maybe you can make judging a full time thing.

Anonymous said...

Just my perspective on the People's Choice chili thing-
Yes, there are cooks who feel that People's Choice is a "sidebar" to winning the competition, but not everyone does. One of the additional problems with a cook off like Worlds is that many cooks are traveling to get there. A lot are flying. With the restrictions airlines now put on how much baggage you can bring, it's hard to pack the equipment to make gallons and gallons of chili. Just to give an idea, we went thru 14 gallons on Saturday, and 11 on Sunday. But we are local and could do that. Not everyone can, even if they wanted to. Just something to think about.

And, it was nice meeting you, Jason and Margo! Great job on the blog posts. Thank you for helping to spread the word.

Mary Alice Kropp