Saturday, September 29, 2012

Colorful booths and ingredients everywhere

If there's a full time job out there that involves eating chili, judging chili and crowning chili champions, sign us up! Our Yumologists had a BLAST as guest judges during the Wichita Wagonmasters Downtown Chili Cookoff. 

It was our first food judging experience and we were excited to learn the ins and outs of what makes a chili cookoff tick. It was much more technical than we had imagined. There are a number of rules and regulations set forth by the ICS (International Chili Society) to ensure the integrity of the chili preparation, delivery, judging and results.

Judges gather in a separate private area, secluded from the fanfare of the event. The windows are closed, covered and no one, other than judges and cookoff personnel, are allowed inside the judging area. 

Chili tasting is done blind, meaning the judges do not know who each chili belongs to. Each bowl of chili is numbered 1-13. On the bottom of each bowl is a separate number corresponding to the team who submitted that chili. Only the chili cookoff staff are allowed to see the numbers on the bottom of the bowls after each category is collected, and judging is complete. 

Judges are not allowed to react to the chili they sample in any way. They cannot speak, make faces, or noises of any kind during the tasting. Speaking to another judge or vocalizing your personal opinion of a chili during competition will see you dismissed from the judging area. 

During the salsa competition judges were allowed to taste the submissions with chips and tortilla squares. Chili, however, can only be judges using plastic spoons. Our Yumologists chose to taste everything in their categories with spoons to ensure we weren't corrupting the original flavors in anyway. 

Grapes are placed on the judging tables as a palate cleanser between tastings, and beverages are allowed, but you must be sure to carry your beverage with you to the judging table. Once judging begins you are not allowed to step away from the table for any reason, including going to the bathroom.

Each judge is armed with a clipboard, pen and evaluation sheet. Each sheet has the judge's name and category on it. The sheets are numbered and each number has a space for comments to help judges remember what they liked or disliked about each entry.  Judges then rank their top three in 1st, 2nd and 3rd place.

Once a judge has made their way around the table, their sheet is submitted to the chili monitor, and judges are free to roam about the event until their next category tasting. Our Yumologists got to judge salsa, ICS green chile, no beans and we were a tiebreaker judge in the anything goes category. We tasted a LOT of chili, but we also had a LOT of fun.

When the judging is complete, the scores are tallied and the chili with the most 1st, 2nd and 3rd place points wins. Cash prizes are awarded for each category with the Grand Champion receiving $1,000. 

We want to thank the Wichita Wagonmasters for allowing Yumology to participate in this year's Downtown Chili Cookoff. We hope to be back again next year, perhaps with a chili recipe of our own!

Welcome Chili Cooks!
 The judges tasting table and tasting submission bowls
 Paper bags in the middle of each table for sample spoons
 Covered wagon as the centerpiece of the event
 Lots of Wichitans enjoying their chili
Street art that got a lot of attention
 Wagonmasters in action
 Great antiques at the event!
 Hot girls with coozies to keep your beer cold
 Busy chefs hand out samples
 Zombie chili had an interesting tent
 This group was the life of the party
 Good sport supporting his pink team
 Armed and dangerous. A box of chili ammo!
 Live country music to set the scene

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