A taste of how the chili is judged

By Sandy Gonzalez

On Saturday, Sept. 29, more than 30 contestants will be creating their best chili in hopes of taking home the top prize of $1,000 during the 12th Annual Simon Kenton Chili Cook-off Festival in downtown Urbana. Accepting the challenge to judge the chili are Chef Yesho Chetty, Tia Leopard, Amber Fraley Weaver, Nick Selvaggio and Brett Gilbert.

”Judging is not easy,” said Linda Monroe, committee member. “It is not just a matter of tasting, but, rather a process of scoring the chili based on five criteria.” Scoring is based on the following:

Taste: Taste above all else is the most important factor. The taste should consist of the combination of the meat, peppers, spices, etc., with no particular ingredient being over powering, but, rather complementing one another. The texture of the meat is important as well as the blend of spices.

Bite: Bite or after taste is the heat created by the various types of chili peppers and chili spices. The chili should not be so spicy that it would burn the tongue which would destroy the ability to taste the separate components of the chili. A pleasing warmth after swallowing the chili is ideal.

Consistency: Chili must have a good proportion of sauce, beans, meat etc. It should not be dry, watery, grainy, lumpy or greasy.

Aroma: Chili should have an inviting aroma which gives you an idea of what to expect when tasting. You should be able to distinguish the individual spices and peppers used.

Color: Chili should look appetizing – whether it is the standard beef chili or the white chicken chili, it should have a clear, crisp appearance with the vegetables (peppers, beans etc.) not cooked to a mush.

Points are scored in each category and the chili earning highest number of points is the winner.

“A 2017 winner will not necessarily be a winner in 2018. Every pot of chili will taste different based on the ingredients used at the time,” Monroe said. “The recipe might be the same, but, the heat of the peppers, freshness of the spices and flavor of the meat will vary and ultimately affect the taste of the chili. I think it is important for people to realize that judging is a complicated process that can take several hours depending upon the number of contestants. We appreciate the judges devoting their time to this task on such a busy day.”

Judges for the Best Salsa Contest have been confirmed. They are: Robin Coffey, Kristen Kirby, Gary Davis, Eileen Grogan and Jim Baker. Winner of the best salsa will take home $100.

To encourage a fun atmosphere , contestants are asked to decorate their booth with a theme representing their the “name” of their team. This has resulted in awesome, creative and zany decorations in the past. For their efforts, the winner receives a trophy and $100 cash prize. The judges are Sara Kerns, Julie Fannin and Sarah Thornton.

The audience can participate in judging their favorite chili by purchasing beads and dropping them in the container at the booth that created their favorite chili. The “People’s Choice Chili” winner earns a trophy and bragging rights!

In addition to the contests, the festival includes a cornhole tournament, dunk tank, live entertainment featuring the LA Band, and lots of great food insuring a day of fun for the entire family!

By Sandy Gonzalez

Information from Simon Kenton Chili Cook-off Festival organizers.

Information from Simon Kenton Chili Cook-off Festival organizers.