What does it take to make the perfect pot of chili?
There were many different answers at the U.S. Army Garrison Stuttgart Chili Cook-off held March 13 by the Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation Community Recreation Division.
Nine teams competed for best traditional red chili, best chili verde (made with green peppers), best salsa and “people’s choice” chili in a tent outside the Patch Hub on Patch Barracks. Winners received plaques and chili pots filled with chili-themed items. The competitors used a variety of ingredients, from the typical meat and peppers to seafood, cocoa powder and beer.
“Chili is definitely an art form,” said Kelly Sarles, event coordinator and USAG Stuttgart Arts and Crafts director. “It’s all about being creative with food.”
Teams began cooking at noon and were judged at 3 p.m. Meanwhile, they handed out samples to community members.
The Stuttgart Theatre Center’s “Rumors” team, named for the upcoming show at the Kelley Theatre, dished out a red chili invented by team member Samantha Helm.
“I was kind of bored one night. I didn’t know what to make for dinner, and I had all this stuff in my pantry,” Helm said. “I threw it together. It’s been a hit ever since.”
U.S. Africa Command team chef Jun Diaz created “Dragon Fire” chili using Asian hot chili sauce.
When Maj. Irv Cross stopped by for a taste, he had a strong first impression.
“I just started sweating,” Cross said. Another AFRICOM team chef, Col. Cheryl Harris, took the “people’s choice” award for her red chili, based on votes from community members.
However, the coveted first prize for traditional red chili went to Brad Moore, a former Marine Corps cook.
Moore, working solo, not only grilled his meat outside on an open flame, but managed to make three types of chili in the allotted time: a seafood chili with shrimp, crab meat and grilled flounder; red chili with sweet and hot Italian sausage and ground buffalo, and a “people’s choice” chili with beans.
His secret ingredient was listening to rhythm and blues music while working. “The blues music is going straight into the chili and it heats it up,” he said.
Moore won the “Mr. Hot Sauce” award for his effort. The “Miss Chili Pepper” award was given to the Patch Arts and Crafts “Artsy Fartsy” chili team chef Morgan Pastore, who served chili while wearing a wig, chili pepper face paint and cowgirl hat.
The “Rumors” team earned the “Best Booth Decoration,” award for their Texas theme.
In the salsa category, the “Chili Today, Hot Tamale” team won first place for their entry made with chopped apples, peaches and mangos. They also took first for their chili verde.
Traditional chili and salsa entries were judged according to International Chili Society standards. Judges Col. Carl D. Bird, garrison commander, Command Sgt. Maj. Anthony M. Bryant, garrison command sergeant major, and Lt. Col. Rich Weaver, U.S. Africa Command commandant, considered chili flavor, meat texture, consistency, blend of spices, aroma and color.
“It needs to have a kick. It needs to have some kind of meat in it and just needs to smell like chili,” Bird said.
The salsa, however, was a little more challenging to judge: One entry was so spicy that he needed to drink milk afterward.
“It was the salsa that almost took me out,” Bird said during the awards ceremony. “But Sergeant Major was doing a lot of crying next to me.”
Next year’s chili cook-off will be sanctioned by the International Chili Society, Sarles said, and the winner will be eligible to compete at the ICS world chili cook-off.