Chili cook-off at St Ann Parish

Over the years I have had the opportunity to be a judge for several events. I've judged big events, like Chicago Wingfest, and well-attended charity events in large venues where I've sat alongside cool celebrities judges - athletes, chefs, entertainers and others. And I've judged a number of community chili cook-offs as well hosted by veterans posts and chambers of commerce. It's always a fun - but tough - job.

My friend, Jen, got in touch with me a few weeks back and asked if I would be a "celebrity" judge for a chili cook-off some ladies would be planning at her church, St. Ann Parish in Lansing, where there was also a trunk-or-treat event going on that Sunday before Halloween. I ended up judging with a longtime friend who is the mayor and the two of us enjoyed trying several different styles of chili and comparing our own recipes. Mayor Patty won first place in a chili cook-off years ago and she said she hasn't entered another since. She's sticking with that first place title. I have only entered one chili cook-off. It was being hosted at church and I won "most unusual" for my beef and bratwurst version.

It's always interesting to see what different ingredients are used. There are always some traditional versions with ground beef and beans. Then there are others that use different meats and vegetables and spices. I always feel like there should be separate categories for traditional chilis and another for more creative versions. I love a traditional chili, but I also like to try out other versions and some are really delicious. 

Patty and I both were in agreement about our favorite, one that combined ground beef and steak in a zesty sauce with generous chunks of other ingredients. It was a nice afternoon getting a taste of some delicious examples from some tough competitors ~ and also getting ideas for chili to make in my own kitchen this fall and winter. Chili season is just getting started!