The Chili Experiment: From Gourmet to Grocery Store

Illustration of a digital landscape with binary trees having leaves in autumn colors. Floating above is a virtual chili bowl with steam rising. Pixels and circuit patterns are subtly visible in the background, and the words 'IT Department Chili Contest' are displayed prominently.

By Larry Billinger

A couple of years back, I had a bright idea for my church’s annual chili contest. I thought, “Hey, let’s shake things up at the church fundraiser!” Call me adventurous, but I went vegetarian. And not just any vegetarian – a pumpkin chili vegetarian! Unique? Yes. A crowd-pleaser? Eh, not so much. Some might have thought I was trying to start a new food trend, but let’s face it, my church is full of meat-lovers. Predictably, my chili didn’t cause the sensation I’d hoped for.

The Texas Twist

The following year, filled with determination, I took a different route. I crafted a traditional, meaty Texas chili, omitting beans entirely. In my mind, it was a masterpiece, and I was tempted leave it at home for me and my family to savor. However, in an ironic twist, my culinary pride was upstaged by a… breakfast chili. Surprisingly, breakfast ingredients made their way to the evening contest!

Eureka! The Wendy’s Revelation

After that setback, I had an epiphany. Perhaps winning the contest wasn’t about reinventing chili. Instead, it might be about serving a familiar bowl like the ever-popular Wendy’s chili, or any other chili from a can. We’ve all had it, and we all secretly love it.

Operation: Canned Conspiracy

Now, with the IT department’s chili contest on the horizon, it was time to put my theory to the test. Time was short, and I had no homemade concoction ready. So, in a moment of inspiration (or desperation), I made a grocery run. Picture this: me, in the Dillons parking lot, secretly combining cans of store-bought chili into a crock pot.

The Big Reveal

Finally, the tasting hour arrived. Among the six entries, each vying for the coveted title of “Best Chili,” while I was just in it for the experiment alone. Resembling a browner and thicker Wendy’s chili, it clinched a tie for third place. Out of six entries, it was not such a great achievement for a concoction born in a parking lot.

The Kid Seal of Approval

After the contest, I couldn’t resist sharing my secret with a few coworkers. Amidst the laughter, one aptly dubbed it the “chili dog chili.” And while it wasn’t gourmet, it passed the ultimate test: Both my usually chili-averse daughter and her friend enjoyed a bowl.

Future Chili Endeavors

So, what did I learn from all these chili adventures? Sometimes, it’s not about being the fanciest dish on the table. Sometimes, it’s about serving comfort, familiarity, and a touch of nostalgia. But for the next church contest, I’m keeping it simple with a fresh twist – actual chilis instead of chili powder. Watch out, Revo!

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