My first experience at judging a Chili Cook-Off was on the beach in July!! Sounds a little out of season but Mother Nature blew some tropical winds our way to cool us down and blow things around quite a bit! After the sand settled the five judges settled in to a banquet table by the pool at the Pink Shell Resort and Spa on Fort Myers Beach. 17 different chili's were brought out one-by-one and passed down the table with lightening speed. We had to score on our first impressions with no information on what was in the chili. Each bowl was rated on things like appearance, smell, consistency, flavor, after-taste, etc.
I tasted spices like cardomon and nutmeg and of course lots of heat! The bowls were creatively adourned with things like hush puppies, queso blanco, sour cream, jalepeno's and scallions. I later learned that I ate chili's made of beef, pork, seafood, sausage, wild boar and KANGAROO!!! I kept eatting when I got home; a handful of Tum's!
The compeitors came from 3 counties. Some were restuarant chefs or employees,some were head chefs in their home but when all was said and done the top prize went to Heath Higginbotham from Bistro 41. His chilli was made with andouille sausage, fresh beans and chocolate! Chocolate, he must've known there would be women on the judge's panel!
The Great American Chili Cook-Off was the first event put on by Southwest Florida's Chapter of the American Culinary Federation. It was also a fundraiser for the Harry Chapin Food Bank! I love a party with a purpose!