Late February provided the Coegi team an opportunity to showcase their culinary prowess in the 2016 Rootin’ Tootin’ Chili Cookoff to benefit the Boys and Girls Club of Columbia. As with most projects, we focused on a collaborative approach with the end product in mind. In this case, an Oaxacan inspired chili with a spice that could be outlawed in some states.
The weekend started with prep from Brittney and Branden as they procured the finest ingredients and mandatory supplies from around town to construct a cooking station suited for a five star chef. Preparing nine gallons of chili takes time, planning, and a lot of hustle. Hustle, we learned, was key in completing the daunting task ahead. Being first-timers at the Chili Cookoff, none of us really knew what was in store for Saturday.
The competition started at 8 am. Chili would not be judged until 2 pm. Surely 6 hours is enough time to prepare chili paste from scratch by dicing 4 packages of celery, 15 onions, 20 scallions, 5 bags of carrots, marinating them with a variety of spices, and pan frying 20 pounds of ground beef, all while preparing a more exhaustive list of ingredients that I will refrain from listing in the interest of brevity. Did we finish? Of course we did, but not without a few moments of panic and a combined team effort.
With the clock ticking and contributions from 8 members of our team, Coegi nailed it with a little time to spare!
Each team member had their role: Branden – the panicked teammate with just enough attitude to provide a sense of urgency (even when it may not have been needed), Phuong – the utility team player that made exhaustive mid-day trips to Target, Elena – her knife skills, while coachable, proved consistent and reliable, Brittney – a balancing force in the group that (wo)manned the electric skillet like a pro, and Ryan – his lunch-time quesadilla + beer run gave the team the energy it needed to sustain.
While we did not win any trophies, we got our fill of chili and libations on our way to a successful day. We each know that the real chili enthusiasts found our scant display to be illustrative of our true focus– the chili and raising money for a great cause.