Cloves. Anchovies. Chocolate. Coca-Cola. Marmite. You might not think of those as normal chili ingredients, but when the competition is on, some cooks pull those out as secret weapons.
But no cooks at a chili cook-off will ever say exactly what they’re putting in their chili to give the flavor depth, smooth over acidic tastes or do whatever they need to do in hopes of crafting a winning recipe.
“There’s really an art to making chili,” says Jo Ann Bender, who is helping put on the first Northwest International Chili Cook-Off in Colville on Saturday.
Cooks from Canada and the Northwest are set to compete in a cook-off aimed to raise funds for Colville Rotary Club charities and serve as a qualifying event for the Chili Appreciation Society International’s (CASI) annual chili cook-off championship in Terlingua, Texas.
The chili will be plentiful and the varieties vast: German white chili, lentil chili, Hawaiian chili, buffalo chili (yes, with real buffalo), vegetarian chili and barbeque chili are some of the flavors cooks will present, says Bud Budinger, chairman of the cook-off.
“Everyone’s got their own idea of what constitutes chili, and they don’t agree,” he says.
Double-blind judging determines the winning chilis, and Lynne Brokaw, the regional CASI referee who has judged chili since 1984, will oversee the panel of judges.
As far as flavors go, Brokaw says she’s expecting anything. Ingredients can be as individual as the chefs, she says, but what makes a good chili is what it does to judges’ taste buds.
“It has to smell like chili. It has to look like chill. It has to taste like chili — not barbeque sauce, not spaghetti,” Brokaw says. “It should have a little bit of bite, both front and back, [and] should be a little hot when it hits your mouth. Then when you swallow it, there has to be a little bit of an afterglow.”
Cook-off attendees will be able to go around and taste spoonfuls of chili from the cooks all afternoon. But beyond chili, there will be vendors selling other food, old-time honky-tonk music, clog dancers, an equestrian drill team and aptly named Blazing Saddles bike ride.
Northwest International Chili Cook-Off • Saturday, Sept. 21 from noon to 6 pm • $12 for adults; free for children under 8 • Northeast Washington Fairgrounds • 317 W. Astor Ave., Colville, Wash. • colvillerotarychilicookoff.webstarts.com