Chili Charity Cook-Off

Our Chili Flopped! But We’re Still on Top!

Iris and Carole trying to save it!

Iris and Carole trying to save it!

Bigger isn’t always better. This was certainly the case for Roca Caliente at the annual Atenas Charity Chili Cook-Off 2014!

It’s true; our chili flopped, but we’re still on top. Time to hang up the pot?

We decided to make six gallons this year. Last year we had five and still we ran out. We bought more meat, brought out more burners, invited more choppers, and by the end of the cooking day, we were pleased with our efforts and felt prepared for the throngs.

We removed shelves from our fridge so we could get the, not one, but TWO huge pots of superb chili in for the night. Honestly, it was pretty darn good; ask the few friends that stopped by for samples.

Come Sunday morning we dragged the big chicharrone pot down from the top shelf, cleaned it up, schlepped it to the little red car, and off to Romavista we went. Our plan was to fill it to the  brim with chili. What a visual – bigger and better than last year, right?

It did occur to me that the pot was pretty heavy empty. It did NOT occur to me that once we dumped BOTH pots of chili in it would be much, much heavier! Too heavy for the plastic folding table it sat on. Duh!

Spilled beans

We spilled the beans – oh wait, we didn’t have any beans!

Within an hour of firing up our propane burner, the metal legs of the portable burner burned through the sturdy plastic table top. The pot tipped, chili ran our onto the table, and people ran to the rescue grabbing the hot handles before it completely dumped and crashed.

Plus, there was something wrong with the chili! After heating, it turned into a bubbling cauldron of liquid. I had saved a smaller pot to submit to the judges, and it was fine. The rest started smelling horrible. I took a good look; whoa! She’s gonna blow!

Bubbling Cauldron

Bubbling Cauldron

Oy veh!! Call the bomberos! Let’s get this stuff outta here. A couple of strong men carried it outside and out of harm’s way. Now what?

In a case like this, there’s only one thing to do. Dump it down the hill, hope  the iguanas and ants enjoy it, and start partying.


Dumping the bubbling caulfron

Another one bites the dust Empty cauldron

From now on, I will leave the chili cooking to the professionals. One of the other contestants, a professional chef, taught me a valuable lesson: store hot chili in small batches. Because we placed a huge quantity in the refrigerator, it never had a chance to cool. It was still warm in the morning. I would have been better off just leaving it on the stove all night, but that wouldn’t be good either. I also have my doubts about the aluminum pot. I know, I know – I’ll use it as an ice bucket for wine. Yeah, that’s it! Fill it will ice and put chardonnay in it.

After clearing off our table, I walked out of the building, stood alone looking at the lively scene below and the band started playing. It was perfect! I sang along: “All the leaves are brown, and the sky is gray…” In my head, I was belting it out. My friend, Lynn, and I have been practicing this very song for over a year. She says I’m flat, and I sing all the parts instead of holding the note for harmony. I keep telling her I can sing; after all, I starred in the school play, Gypsy, at Hauppauge High. My main number was “Let Me Entertain You!”.

She says I carried it off on personality, not my vocal chords. She’s probably right.

For better or for worse, I hope you are entertained.

31 thoughts on “Our Chili Flopped! But We’re Still on Top!

  1. Great article and you will never be a true chef until you fail many more times…don’t stop now…your mistakes make for great reading…your successes will make for better reading.


  2. What a great story, well, the chili disaster doesn’t
    test you as a chef, cook, my friend, it’s a great lesson to never repeat…but keep on cooking chili!!! xx


  3. Always keep the metal pot full of wine and by next years cook off this will be a fussy memory that educated and gave you the edge you need to win and be the hot team that you guys really are!!!.


  4. Carole Jean, I am so sorry your batch of chili flopped. My dad, a father of a large family, and a part-time cook in the Navy during WWII, taught me many lessons as a kid, and two of them have been invaluable: 1 – Never use aluminum pots to cook beans with tomatoes. 2 – Never try to chill more than 2 gallons of hot food in a single container, because the food can’t chill fast enough in a conventional refrigerator. In both cases, the food will be unsafe for consumption.


  5. ALWAYS entertained by your blogs, my dear!!!!! And this one is no exception!!!! We had a similiar situation a couple years ago when Cameron got too creative with the seasonings, and the chili ended up with a distinctive vinegar smell AND taste…thanks to Lynn’s quick thinking, we marketed it as “Chili Vinaigrette” and actually got one “bean vote”…that was the end of the chili-making!

    Keep your blogs coming, Carole—you’ve always got plenty of material!!!


  6. Sorry about your chili…. but it was so great to meet you, and you didn’t seem phased by the chili at all (which was good, because what could you do??)… 🙂 Plus you girls looked very cute. 🙂


  7. I know how you must have felt… I once had 40 liters of Dutch green pea soup, for a charity event, turned sour……but you cant be good at everything in life! But still fun to participate and have dun.


  8. Oh my gosh Carole, it sounds like an amazing adventure…what’s new!! It is just like the lessons learned in canning so very long ago. You have to leave them on the counter overnite till they cool before tightening the lids for the final time, so they cool properly……..or even making our Chicken soup……atleast it is good to see you smiling…I loved the table legs,” Bowlegged”)!!Loved the outfits:)


  9. Love those shirts you are wearing and cool hats! What a disappointment for you because I know how excited you were to cook up a batch of your secret recipe. I bet we will see you next year behind the burners, despite what you say!


  10. Hilarious Carole…we had a chili cook off at work…..ending up calling it a chili – off. Only had four participants in four small crock excitement but we had fun…..sounds like you had more fun at yours though and you made a story for a life time….can you imagine if you had won…….oh well, guess what, I won the cook off in 2014….you can only carry that story so far….your story has a lot of “meat” in it……ha-ha-ha……


    • Yes, I’m getting a lot of “mileage” out of it! We were so sure we were going to knock ’em dead on volume alone. We almost DID knock ’em dead. That bubbling pot ‘O foamy goo might have killed somebody. Sheesh! I hope we didn’t kill any animals who discovered it on the side of the hill.Good to hear from you. Thanks for reading and commenting!


  11. Hi Miss Carole, Do not dispair your beauty and charm are what is important not the Chili. So sorry to hear the story and hope with all my heart that you will try again. I really mean what I say. We all have bad stuff happen. The first year one of the contestants fell a sleep while his Chili cooked on low but it burnt and he had to toss it. So did the same thing happen to the Marines last year. So you are not alone my dear. Love you, Kay


    • Dear Dear Kay! Thanks for your nice note! No really, we took it in good spirits…just felt badly about such waste. We would rather have given the money! I think the story about the guy falling asleep is even funnier! And the Marines, too! All fodder for the blog! Thanks for the support and love. Back atcha!


  12. Pingback: Chili Come-Back! | carole jean's capers

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