A tasting expert was called out to the Ballantyne Festival on Saturday to judge who had the best chili in town. I wasn’t that expert, but I did eat a bunch of chili and have some thoughts on the day’s winners.
The Charlotte Fire Department’s chefs earned my respect at last year’s chili cook-off, so I decided to give them the honor of “first bowl” this weekend, when I did my own little bit of chili judging for the paper. That may have been a mistake, I later told Charlotte City Council representative Warren Cooksey, as we surveyed the crowd and worked on our respective bowls of chili. I was already on my fourth of the 19 chilis, and my tongue was still recovering from the fire department’s booth.
“Yeah, I’ve learned from the past to work my way up to the fire department,” Cooksey told me.
Well, now I know.
To make a long story short, I tried everyone’s chili, and none could top that first bowl. I found out later that the crowd agreed and had named the fire department’s chili as the best. It was spicy, but not too spicy, and they gave little fire hats to the children. That’s tough to beat.
The official judge from Johnson and Wales University gave the Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office top billing, which I can’t say I agree with, but I’m also not an expert. I’m just a guy who likes chili, without beans, if I can get it that way, and with crackers.
In addition to the fire department, I have to applaud the Golden Retriever Rescue Club of Charlotte, which had four varieties of chili – vegetarian, spicy, regular and chicken. Their regular chili ranked high with me.
I handed out honorable mentions to Relay for Life, the Morrison YMCA, Ballantyne Rotary and MeckGOP.
The loser of the day? Me. That’s just too much chili.