Saturday, April 18, 2009
This is NOT a police line up. Really. We are the chili contest judges in Asheboro, NC after eating a whale of a lot of chili. From left to right: Asheboro Mayor David H. Jarrell, Grill Girl, Moses Howard, and Chris from Chris and Chris on the radio.
There was some serious deliberation going on at the judging counter. The mayor and Moses ponder on what makes the perfect chili.
The owner of Fresh Cuts Butcher and Seafood hot foots it to the front when he's named the winner of the first annual Chili Cook Off in Asheboro.
Bryan Vaughan and Chris congratulate Kevin Hill who owns Fresh Cuts Meat & Seafood of Asheboro on having the best darn chili in North Carolina.
Don't you wish you local butcher looked this cute and also could make award winning chili?
Everyone should judge a chili contest once. I can tell you that it's quite and experience.
Today, I drove out to Asheboro to help pick the best chili of the day. I took an Imodium beforehand to be on the safe side and packed Tums, crackers, and water.
This was the first year for the Chili Cook Off, and Bryan who owns the local bagel shop put the event together along with my friend Greta who works in promotions.
I arrived early, so I could wander around and enjoy the street festival and shoot a few pictures. Then, I went to the bagal shop to get down to business.
The mayor of Asheboro who was absolutely delightful and Moses Howard (the original rhythm and blues comic) were already checking out the various chilis. I grabbed my pen and paper and began checking out the different cups of chili. Moses (I think it was) said, "Are you supposed to take notes at these things?" I said, "Well, I don't think I can remember all of them without notes."
There were numbers on the cups, so we didn't have a clue who had turned in which chili. We just wrote down numbers and notes including marking down favorites.
We each had a spoon. Yes. We were double dipping. Someone mentioned later about getting a fresh spoon so as not to double dip. Oops. Too late. I confirmed a visual inspection and found the guys to be a healthy, strapping bunch. So, maybe we traded a little spit, but oh well. Life goes on. All that hot sauce probably sanitized everything anyway.
This tasting of the chili was more art than science. We each marked down favorites without comparing notes and then tallied up at the end. There were only 7 or 8 contenders by vote. The ones with three votes went to the top of the chart. That narrowed the pool.
We all agreed on the number one chili. That really was just: Which one was your top pick? We had all tagged the same one for that spot. It stood out.
Likewise with the second place chili. Not much discussion there.
Slot three was more difficult. We went back to tasting and then marking down which ones we liked. We got that down to two bowls. The vote split even - two for one bowl and two for the other. We had to grab a tie breaker judge and went with the chili that she picked out of those last two.
I can't speak for all the judges, but I looked at appearance, aroma, and mainly taste.
In terms of trends, the favorites were mostly classic North Carolina chilis with meat and beans. Folks out in Texas will freak on that. They disqualify chilis with beans out there. And, they aren't much on ground beef chili, although that was the style with most of the North Carolina chilis. In Asheboro, there's an expectation that you're going to have a ground beef base and beans of some type.
Vegetarian chili was interesting and especially the unidenified chunks which were probably tofu. Adding vegetables to the standard chili scored fine with one winner including corn. Mushrooms in there was more like spaghetti sauce, while skimpy on the beans was considered rather like hot dog chili (with no weiners or buns).
Judges tended to be heat freaks for the most part - especially Moses who wore a hot pepper shirt which is a good clue. The mayor and I scored the mild by number 13 top, and I cried on the hot 13 while the mayor did not. I suppose you could say that he kicked my butt on that. Go Mayor Jarrell. In any case, we all loved 13 which is supposed to be the unlucky number but certainly was not today.
The guys cut out after we picked the winners by number, and I stuck around to talk to Greta and to buy a real bagel for my son (who was blown away with it when I got home). Actually, they were not selling bagels, and some nice guy at the bagel shop gave me one, and I will have to take 64 going up to Raleigh soon, so I can buy more. Bryan's homemade bagels really were ALL THAT.
Since I was still in the shop, I got to hear about the winners before they announced that at 5 p.m. It turned out that a local won the contest. That was Fresh Cuts. They don't usually cook. They hand cut meat and have fresh seafood. That's what I'm talking about. We used to have a local butcher but don't now - a shame. Maybe the butcher should open up a restaurant as well, because he sure did make some great chili. That call wasn't even close. We knew first place was number 13. We just didn't know who was number 13. Make mine mild though, because that had plenty of heat. My nose is still running from the hot 13.