My first cooking award

I have never thought of myself as an award-winning chef. I like the food I make and know that I have a knack for it. But award-winning? Today I can say I am.

My husband’s work, Pandemic Studios, held their first annual chili cook-off and I thought it would be fun to enter. I had never entered a cooking contest before and hadn’t really been interested, as they often seem competitive and serious. This would be small, informal, and fun. I know many of the people at the studio and everyone is very laid-back.

I started planning right away. I knew I wanted my chili to be traditional with beef and beans, with a hint of smoke from chipotle chilies . I would make some of my rich beef broth from Greg’s beef bones(Rocky Canyon). I would also use Greg’s grass-fed stew meat; the chunks would be nice and big and melt in your mouth. Using the highest of quality ingredients and attention to each step would be the basis of my chili.

I made a practice batch for my family. I ground dried chipotle chilies into a powder as the beef broth cooked. I then marinated the stew chunks in Moe’s seasoning(seasoning salt made by family friend, Mohammed), homemade pasilla chili sauce, and lime. Assembling the chili, I first browned the meat, removed it from the pan and sauteed onions and peppers. I then added the broth, diced tomatoes, spices(oregano, cumin, ground chipotle,bay leaves), and the meat and simmered it, uncovered for hours.

I am not a big chili eater. It is good once in a while, certain times of the year. Like over dogs on Halloween night. I guess I have never really eaten homemade chili or anything different than what comes out of a can. This chili was a whole other experience! Thick like a nice stew, not like canned chili thick. It was slightly smokey, very savory and flavorful. Some of the chunks of meat had fallen apart, dispersing the meat throughout the broth, while other chunks stayed intact, just long enough to make it into my mouth before falling apart. Even the kids liked it. Perfect. This is exactly what I had envisioned.

I arrived at the chili cook-off just in time to set up the condiments I prepared(cilantro, homemade creme fraise, and lime) and put on my chef jacket. The chili was already there waiting for me(I delivered it in the morning and kept in warm in a crock pot).

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The crowd gathered and the contest begun. We each introduced ourselves and said a little something about our chili. Then the judges did the tasting. It was not long before they were back to announce the winners. Third place went to the chili with capers, second to the curry chili, and first to smokey chipotle grass-fed beef chili(me). My heart was pounding and I couldn’t stop smiling.

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The masses made their way into line to taste the contestants. A few folks came up and congratulated me, some to tease that I was a professional in an amateur contest. The judges said they liked the flavor of my chili the best, though the executive chef from Napa Valley Grill thought it was a little thin and could have used more spice. I agreed.

But there was none left when I finally got up to the front of the line to taste test. It was that good-or maybe the masses were just that hungry.:)

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One Comment on “My first cooking award”

  1. Angela
    April 25, 2008 at 9:55 pm #

    Congratulations!

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