Refections of a Veteran Chili Cook-Off Contestant

Delray Dave's Kidney Punch Chili

Saturday at 10AM, I will put on my game face and meet on the culinary killing fields as I compete in the 2013 Delray Beach chili cook-off. It may be a fool’s mission, but the flame of my naked ambition will light the fire beneath my chafing dish in the Green Market in the park off Pineapple Grove by Old School Square.  Here’s a link.

 In winter I make chili. Even in South Florida, when a chill infiltrates February nights it triggers a genetic switch in my deoxyribonucleic-acid double-helix, posting a notice that it’s time to make the chili. And when I make the chili, I make enough to last till St. Patrick’s Day. And I use a pot so enormous that whenever I am at the grocery assembling the inventory of chili components, I always pick up McCormick Chili Powder just in case I don’t have enough left at home from last time. But so much time passes between chili seasons that I forget this is exactly what happened last time, and the time before that; a ritual played out over and over backwards in time to when Hill Street Blues was on Thursday nights after Night Court.  And when I return from hunting and gathering chili ingredients, I open the pantry to discover a mother lode of unopened containers of McCormick Chili Powder, some likely dating back to the Nagano Winter Games. And so there resides in my kitchen sufficient McCormick Chili Powder to make a year’s worth of mole sauce for a Oaxacan family of twelve.

 Also, Joan of Arc Dark Red Kidney Beans. And what Joan of Arc (who heard voices from the Saints and persuaded the dauphin Charles to let her battle the English who controlled the puppet Philip, who turned her over to the Bishop of Beauvais who tried her for heresy and burned her at the stake) has to do with a can of kidney beans, well, you tell me.

 I have competed in the Delray Beach Chili cook-off for nine years and I have placed first in the People’s Choice category once and second or third multiple times. In the year I won first place I made a version of the recipe for Chasen’s Chili, the Chili that Elizabeth Taylor had flown to Rome from LA when she was filming Cleopatra. But it cost me upwards of a C-note for the prime cuts of steak the recipe required and I have long since reconciled with ground beef.

 The single year I rolled snake-eyes (and left the field impoverished of bling) I called my chili Delray Dave’s 50 Thousand Watt Chili because I worked on a 50 thousand watt radio station and imagined I was clever. But everybody thought that meant it was incandescently hot so timid voters detoured around my table. So I learned the name matters. The last two years my Chili was called Delray Dave’s Moo and Oink Chili and it placed second both times in my category. So this year I decided to change to Delray Dave’s Kidney Punch Chili. I have designed as my logo an angry cartoon kidney bean wearing boxing gloves. Leaving out the pork moves me into the traditional category and out of the New Age category so I hope that strategy wins the day. In fact, the event is always a win for me because whether I score a trophy or not, it’s a fine excuse to go drink beer after. And in Delray Beach the chili cook-off grounds are within a one block walk of a half-dozen bars, and a two block walk from a dozen bars, and so on and so forth, exponentially.

2 Responses to “Refections of a Veteran Chili Cook-Off Contestant”

  • Anita says:

    And I will be Dave’s trusty sidekick … or maybe his boxing personal trainer.

  • Peter Arts says:

    Dave and ANita, as one of the judges of the event the last few years your Chili is always Top Notch.

    Thanks for being a consistent and enthusiastic participant and this great reflection.

    I feel like we are friends as I listen to you every morning.

    Since you are form Chicago I have to ask;
    Giordano’s
    Gino’s East
    Pizza Uno
    or
    Lou Malnati’s

    Who’s got it going????

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