The Great Chili Cookoff of 1992

I was working as an Executive for a very exclusive, very expensive resort in the southwest. I was not just an Executive Chef for three independent business units, I was also front of the house GM for them.

It sounds like I had three full-time positions, but in reality, it was more like six.

Throughout the day I would be constantly changing and moving from front to back of house, wherever the Chef and General Manager were needed.

The bad news about the job(s) was that I never got to see my wife very much at all, but the good news was the multi-billion dollar resort company I worked for paid me roughly four times my salary, which did not suck at all. We never had time to spend any of the dough, so it just sat there waiting for me to include it in my calculations for early retirement.

But there was this chili cookoff which was being held at the Rawhide Western World in Scottsdale, forcing us to take the hour and a half drive north.

I was representing the resort in the chili cookoff, and I went for the shocking.

There were a total of twenty-three entrants in the chili cookoff.

I won for Most Original Ingredients for my Seafood Chili, made with firm pieces of swordfish and halibut, scallops, and jumbo prawns. I never bothered to calculate food cost on it, as I could never recoup cost unless I priced the chili in the twenty-five dollar range, and you don’t have to be a graduate of Cordon Bleu to know that is too expensive.

Not so fast.

My buddy, Tom, the Executive Chef of a monster steak operation on the property, would go on to win second place overall with his beef chili, made with tenderloins and veal demi-glace.


Our employer was pleased.

Tom was given a check for two-thousand for his victory, and I got half that for my specialty prize.

Plus we wrote off the party bus we said we would need to transport our gear (which could have easily fit into the back of a Honda Civic).

Near the end of my chef career, I had gained a little celebrity through favorable reviews, contests, and articles.

So I was offered a seat at the judges table for different food competitions, bake-offs, rib-offs, Pan-Asian celebrations; you name it, I judged it.

Mainly I would get drunk (and sometimes high) with the different food guys. Very few held the title of chef, but one thing about food competitions: your food doesn’t lie. People know what taste is, and it always plays well in these competitions.

I also make a Manhattan-style red Dana Point seafood chowder in which I utilize other firm-fleshed seafood such as cod, monkfish, and lobster.  The same mirepoix of garlic, celery, carrot and leeks is first sauteed, after which fresh cubed tomatoes, rich fish stock, and a cup of good red wine.

Cook it down.


Stay well.

Published by maddogg09

I am an unmotivated genius with an extreme love for anything that moves the emotional needles of our lives.

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