Last Sunday, right before the glorious 4th of July holiday, the 2nd Annual BA Chili Cookoff took place at Maxim restaurant in Palermo Soho. Nearly 20 chefs were at the ready with their homespun spicy delights, about to be judged by tons (seriously I think there were 25+ of us?) of discerning and hungry judges. Organized by Dan Karlin, (the man behind Anuva wines and the BA Podcast) Frank Almeida (mastermind of Sugar & Spice) and Larry Rogers (El Tejano, the man who brought brisket to Buenos Aires), this year’s event was a great time. I loved having the chance to be a judge and even though I literally almost exploded from eating so much, thought it was pretty dandy to be able to get my paws on all of the chilis before the rest of the crowd was able to.
Judges were invited early, which was nice since the space literally exploded with people by later in the afternoon. The only thing I would have liked to change would have been the guidance (or lack thereof) in terms of judging – we were given a blank sheet and told to score on a 100-point scale. We weren’t allowed to discuss with other judges, either. Basically this meant that I didn’t think of something creative/logical like breaking down the points into flavor, spice level, and overall yumminess. Nope, not me. I literally just bolted out of the gate and starting eating and judging simultaneously. Woops. Not the most methodical or scientific approach, but in the end it just led to my giving perhaps overly generous scores – which was fine with me! (I also would have appreciated it if a glass of beer weren’t $25 pesos but that’s just a side note.)
My favorites were Craig Jull’s smoky, meaty and spicy chili (which won both Judges’ and Peoples’ Choice), Daniel Tunnard’s Indian-influenced batch, and Johnny Deutsch’s Patagonic lamb with hints of chocolate and espresso (he won it all). Not far behind was Paul Strobl’s chili which had a heavy French lilt and was full of wine – I liked that it was different. It’s so interesting to see how a general concept of a dish can be interpreted in so many ways. Overall, a great experience which I hope to repeat next year! Congratulations to everyone who participated and won, and thanks to the event organizers for letting us stuff our faces all in the name of being “official.”