Yes, I know I have spent a lot of time lately talking about this, but there have been some interesting developments.
After the last chili cookoff, I was determined to tweak the recipe, since I knew I could do better. Also, I had promised some chili to my coworker who covered my shift the day of the cookoff, but as my pot was one of the very first ones empty, I was not able to fulfill that promise. But this gave me an opportunity to kill two peppers with one pot, so to speak. Not only would I show my coworker my appreciation, I would also get a chance to play with the recipe some more.
My coworkers loved the chili, though it was a lot spicier than most of them expected. It was also very smokey. These are not criticisms, mind you, as that was what I was going for anyway. Even the coworker who is a self-described "sally" when it comes to spicy food tried a little...and loved it!
I was only able to bring in half the batch for my coworkers, as that was all my crock pot would hold (I cooked the chili in a regular big ole stock pot), and so still had half a batch left over. I figured I would bring it in another time for other coworkers, or feed some friends or something.
But a day or so later my friend Frank told me about his church's chili cookoff that Wednesday night. Now, I was not going to be able to attend, as I work Wednesday nights, but I gave him the half batch, and he and his mom and aunt brought it in in their own crock pot. And while there was no official judging, according to Frank and his mom, the attendees were pretty darned happy with my offering. I don't know the quantities anyone else brought, but by his accounts, my pot was the first one emptied. (Interestingly, at the earlier chili cookoff where I came in fourth, my pot was one of the first two emptied, out of over 30 offerings, and that was a full batch.)
And that has all led to this: a mutual friend of Frank and myself, who now resides in the Florida Panhandle, suggest I go up there in March for their annual and apparently well-known chili cookoff. (Last year's had about 70 entries.) Top prize is $500, though I can't get much more information about it yet as their website is down for the moment.
The great thing is that I won't have to pay for lodging, which normally at these types of festivals can get pricey, and even when they don't, it's still a decent expense. But it seems we will be able to crash at the friend's house, which means we just have to get there and back (and of course, take the time off of work).
So I am pretty excited, and looking forward to my first "real" cookoff, and the first one I have ever done outside of Key West. I just hope it is not one where you have to make it from scratch under a time limit. Speed is not my forte (it takes me about an hour just to cut up the meats!), and chili really should be allowed to have some time to get happy.
So yeah, I am pretty stoked about this!