One shot. And six pounds of brisket.
Ever since Shaw and I got shut out at the Kansas City Ad Club’s first CHILLYs, that cold winter’s eve has haunted us.
We made a damn fine pot of chili that night. I won’t go into my sour grapes here — but I will say that by the time the cook-off was over, we’d been completely cleaned out of chili. People liked it, but the deep pockets spending dollars on extra votes weren’t coming our way.
So for the second annual CHILLYs, we came at it hardcore.
|Photo by Kimberly Winter Stern|
Kneecap Chili was back to lead the fight against the tyranny of big corporate chili. Because chili is for THE PEOPLE.
We knew we’d need to step up our game, so we created a three-step plan:
- Make an even better chili than previous. We centered our recipe on brisket that was first smoked and then finished by simmering it in beer.
- We’d give away free cans of Miller High Life. (We had exactly one taker at The CHILLYs, and I don’t think they voted for us. We admit this was not a perfect plan.)
- That incredible video above playing on a loop, which both breaks down our chili philosophy and shows off my badass Wolverine fighting moves.
After a night in the slow cooker, we had a pot of chili bursting with the powerful flavors of brisket, bacon and social justice. It had a taste profile that started sweet and ended spicy, and was best enjoyed garnished with a pepperoncini.
There was a difference in the rules for The CHILLYs this year. The popular vote wouldn’t win the whole thing. Rather, the top four vote-getters would move onto a final round to be judged by five Kansas City culinary celebrities who would pick the ultimate winner. If we could just make it that far, I knew we’d have a shot.
And at the end of the first round of voting, we had the fourth-highest vote tally, eking our way into the finals. (I won’t lie — I campaigned at the office to get us some cash for extra votes.)
The second round was tough. Paula Morris made her Fiery After Burn chili with homegrown peppers and meats from The Local Pig. Paul Weber’s Get a Little Tail chili involved oxtail. Sarah Dyerson made her famous Chili to Dyerson For, served with tequila shots that were going over much better than our High Lifes. (In retrospect, that was unsurprising.)
Some may say that second place is first place of the losers, and yes, we would’ve loved to have won. But we’re still proud of our efforts and we’ll leave you with this — tonight, big corporate chili lost, and that’s still a victory.
Congrats to all the chili cooker-offers — everything we tasted was seriously awesome. Thanks to all the judges, too. Kimberly Winter Stern was one of them, and you should check out her recap.
And finally, thanks to AAF-KC for putting on this super fun event.