Chili Champs

posted in: Cook-Offs, NYC Events | 11

the tasting frenzy at Mo Pitkin’s left no chili standing

For those of you who weren’t sweating over styrofoam cups of chili at the Manhattan Chili Takedown 2007 yesterday, I was there; and I survive to tell you of the glory that went down.

Though I didn’t enter a chili of my own to the contest, three of my friends did: Karol with her recently updated vegetarian chili bliss with apricots and all manner of peppers (she heroically recovered from a severe habanero injury over the weekend in time to make it to the event), and David and Shana, with a smoky chipotle bean and tempeh (fermented soy bean curd) chili “non carne.” Theirs were the only two vegetarian entries of the night, out of some 19 different homemade chilis. Nevertheless, the offerings were not without variety: when I arrived at the contest around 5:30pm, many of the chili trays were sadly all scraped up, but I did manage to taste some wickedly spicy chicken chili, a mole and cinnamon-spiced chili, a couple of steak chilis and some ground meat(?) red chili varieties until my tastebuds were spent for the evening.

The contest included two separate awards: a $100 prize would be awarded to the best chili as chosen by judges, and $200 would be awarded to the “people’s choice” winner — anyone who attended the contest and did not enter their own chili was given a ballot to vote for this.

judge Emily Takoudes, an editor at Ecco Books, announces the runners-up alongside co-judge Ken McGooey (right)

Warning: carnivorous chili purists may want to discontinue reading. Because the first-place prize of the judged chili contest went to… David and Shana! With their tempeh-tastic smoky chili. The judges complimented its exemplary texture, which I hear was achieved by cooking down a base of tomatoes and onions for several hours a day ahead of cooking the rest. In the end, the judges confirmed, it all came down to taste — no matter what ingredients were used, meat or none. And theirs just tasted the best. Hey, this is New York, land of equal opportunity.

David and Shana accept top honors

Unfortunately, neither theirs nor Karol’s won the people’s choice award, and I don’t think I got to taste the winning chili for that award (nor snapped a photo of it). I’m sure it was great stuff, though.

the good, the bad, and the empty

Stay posted for a possible recipe of the winning chili, if I can finagle it from David and Shana. Before winning, they had confessed to me that they thought they ran short on “stuff” to put in their chili — it could have easily taken a couple more green peppers and onions. But the contest required them to bring in two gallons of chili, an amount they had no experience with. A mistake gone right, apparently.

I’ve never felt that confident about my own chili making chops, but after it was announced last night that there may be a “Brooklyn Chili Takeoff” in a couple of months, I think it may just be time to get some practice. With a little consulting from the top.

11 Responses

  1. Matt Timms

    Wheeee! Nice article!! Shana and David fooled a bunch of people who thought it was a meat chili – so holy wow. Hope everyone who reads this is inspired to cook up a huge batch for the next Chili Takedown – stay tuned at for upcoming details on the Brooklyn Takedown event, in Wberg in a few months…

  2. cathy

    Cool, thanks for the update, Matt (and for reading)! I’m totally there for the Brooklyn chili takedown chapter!

  3. I’m tickled to see vegetarians prevail 2 years in a row. Wooweee!

  4. Lynda Kayes

    Congratulations to my niece, Shana, and her live-in David. Two great people even if they leave meat out of their chili. Make me a batch, Shana, please. I would love to try it.

  5. Terry B

    Texas purists aside, chili offers up some wonderful opportunities for improvisation and variation–and for surprise winners. By all means, throw your hat into the Brooklyn Chili Takeoff ring.

    Here in Chicago, unseasonably cool weather prompted chili cooking last night, an urge I’m always ready to indulge.

  6. Joyce Katz

    Shana…I can’t wait for your visit to Arizona so your old great Aunt can have a taste of this prize. Yum. My mouth is watering for a taste! Love ya.

  7. marc

    good show shana & david….vege chili…love it.

  8. Ellen

    That’s my girl!! I’m Shana’s mom–and SO SO proud! This is just one of her MANY, MANY talents. You GO Shana!! (And David, too, of course–it’s a TEAM effort!) Love you both…mom

  9. […] know what you’re thinking — the ultimate winners were your friends?? But please, let me insist that neither I nor Karol took any part in the judging. In fact, of the […]

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  11. […] invite themselves so it’s equal opportunity chili, he has hosted a Tofu Takedown (yum!) and non-meat chili has won the chili competition in the past. Courtesy of – […]

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