Taste buds were tingling on Saturday afternoon thanks to the Grand Central District’s 11th annual chili cook off, the district’s longest-running fundraiser.
Contestants ranged from professional chefs to chili hobbyists, with awards given for best restaurant chili and best individual’s chili. The voting panel included local celebrity judges Jason Esposito of Engine Number Nine and members of the Bay News 9 team.
The award for best restaurant was given to Old Key West Restaurant, on Central Avenue in the Grand Central District. Tied for second was Urban Brew and Barbeque and Urban Comfort, which offered a smoked brisket chili and a pepper chili, respectively.
Attendees voted on the People’s Choice award from the field of 15 entries, and CA Café took the prize. CA Café, located in a former train station that also houses the Morean Art Center for Clay, paid homage with their “Train Station Chili.”
No stranger to winning, Gary Mayfield, professional chef at The Hurricane in Pass-A-Grille, took the honor of first place in the Best Individual category.
“No beans, no filler. Just sauce, spice, and meat,” is how Mayfield touted his Texas style chili to tasters. Mayfiled says the lack of beans is what makes his chili “Texas style.”
Second place was awarded to Mark Soos, a hobbyist chili maker.
“It takes about $200 to $300 for each batch,” Soos said, while stirring his vat of chili with two hands.
Soos cooks his chili with Polish sausage, Italian sausage, steak and ground beef.
“You don’t see any chili with four meats in it,” Soos said.
The event raised several thousand dollars for the Grand Central District Association, according to executive director Lauren Ruiz.
“We’ve been doing this for 11 years,” Ruiz said. “I think it’s got a familiarity, and we have people who attend year after year, so that familiarity is a benefit for us.”