Chili Champions!

Much to our surprise and happiness, amongst some pretty strong competition, Amazing Edibles was voted the best chili this weekend at The Chicago Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce 12th Annual Jack Daniels Chili Cook Off!  Alexi and I (Lisa, Sales Diva) were there to show Chicago that we are more than just a wonderful catering company, we have some cooking chops too!

This was Alexi's amazing introduction to Chicago as our new chef and she outdid herself!  We were humbled that many of the other chefs came by our table to try our chili because they kept hearing so many good things about it.  We were also honored that in this crowd of people we have never met before, we were embraced and made to feel like we belonged there.

Our chili started it's journey on Tuesday of last week.  Alexi made a small batch and we all tasted it.  We decided it needed more of this, a little bit of that, some more heat and even some chocolate!  So, the little batch was put in the cooler until Thursday when all of the secret ingredients were gathered and the real cooking began!  Alexi cooked off several pounds of ground beef, diced up some ribeye, got 4 kinds of chili powder, added some Jack Daniels, some dark beer, several different hot sauces, cannellini beans and black beans, coriander, cumin and oh so much more!  This was a labor of love.  Alexi LOVES chili!  It cooked much of the day Thursday and then we brought it out again on Friday to taste it for heat and to figure out what else would make it AMAZING!  So, doctor Alexi made some tweaks and changes and let it rest overnight again.

On Saturday, we brought the chili out one last time, added a little more heat and it was ready to go.  We packed it up and brought it over to Sidetracks.  Both Alexi and I were a little nervous and very excited to be going to our first competition!  We did not expect to win or even place, but we were very proud of what Alexi made and thought we would put in a good showing.  We knew we were going against some stiff competition and were going in to learn some great lessons from the other chefs.

All of the contestants were very friendly and ready to talk about what they created.  One chef, from Foodie University, made his chili with a peanut butter base.  This was very good!  This chef happened to be Marie Ramos' husband.  Marie and I just connected last week for the first time at her eWomen Network group.  If anyone is looking for a great professional connection, she is the one to have!  Intelligent and beautiful, she knows her stuff and is very open and giving about her process.

But back to chili!  Some of the chilis had a Cajun flair, some were vegetarian, some were made with turkey or chicken, some even had cute little hotdogs in it and were served on teeny hotdog buns!  They got my vote for creativity!  There was even a lobster chili - very yummy!

We were lucky to have some friends who came to support us on our first time out and they helped direct some of the tasters our way so we were sure to get our chili in front of as many people as possible.  People commented on how much they liked our presentation, and we do believe you eat with your eyes first, so this was very important to us!  We had 9 toppings for our chili that complemented the rich, meaty, savory flavors in it.  I think the crowd favorites were our amazing homemade guacamole, the cumin crema and Alexi's homemade tortilla strips.

At the end of the day when Alexi and I were cleaning up, we were encouraged by the amount of positive feedback we got from the tasters.  We though we might get 2nd or 3rd place, so when they were announcing the top three, I was surprised and a little disappointed when I didn't hear our name called for the 2nd runner-up or the runner-up, and was ready to chalk this event up to experience.  But then they called us as the winners!  All of our family and friends cheered louder than they did all day!  Lexi and I went up to get the prize and so many people congratulated us on the way.

It was an amazing experience and I am already looking for another competition for Alexi to show her talent and to show Chicago what Amazing Edibles Catering is all about!  Great food and great people!