By Bertram Nicke
Instead of studying for a calculus exam I later bombed, I answered a call from the sweet indigestion fairy. What? USF chili cook off at the amphitheater? Free t-shirts? I’m in. Maybe I will meet some sweet and spicy chili princess. Or maybe just another handful of that checkered mexican cheese, baby. Thank you USF Veterans for putting on this glorious tournament of titanic proportions. Champions are forged here through , conflagration, fire, flame, and marinade. Somewhere in the oval bazaar, immortality awaits with chips.
I stood in line with the rest of the plebs to storm the amphitheater. My early biased favorite and director of Bulls Radio Zak Kuiper pulls me out of line and into the labyrinth. Press pass to a chili cook off; rock bottom or crowning achievement? Either way, Bulls Radio is a good place to start actually reviewing the chili. They brought the heat.
Bulls Radio Chili
Who: Zak Kuiper and Bobby Swift, two people who see me waste time on a regular basis. Both former armed forces, both ironically Bulls Radio workers, both clad in firemen attire. Whether or not I like the chili, it’s still good. This is a Bulls Radio review amirite?
What: Zak has been hyping his “Bulls Radio Reaper” Chili. He had an unveiling party for it. Word through the pinto bean grapevine is that it is spicier than the redness of Zak’s beard.
It tastes like: How clowns make me feel: scary and aroused. It brought the heat. Reaction shots of tasting the chili were mandatory. I love spicy and it did not disappoint. I alpha maled the chili of course, until I swallowed wrong and it went down the wrong pipe and I cried a little.
Verdict: 2nd best chili
Award: Hottest Chili Award
I pressed onward into the chili void with cleared sinuses clockwise.
Alumni Avengers Chili
Who: A pair of lovable soccer moms. Their attempt at a superhero outfit is hilarious. They look like a USF version of that crazy chef from Chuck E Cheese with “Awesome” written in glitter on the brims of their chef hats. If they had an award for making me miss my female family members than they win.
What: The “Alumni Avengers Chili” was the only green chili in attendance. I have dabbled in green chili. Most people think I am latino and I usually don’t discourage them. I do love mexican food.
It tastes like: Florida’s version of a New Mexican classic. But like everything in Florida, it has become white washed.
Award: Greenest Chili
Pink Shirt Lady Chili
Who: It looks like a family chili affair. Many of conversations in this family ultimately lead to chili, unlike the conversations of mine usually end up with me getting threatened for cheating at monopoly.
What: The name remains shrouded in mystery of my mind. I do remember this: this was easily the sweetest chili there. The honey was evident and prevalent. Also, the matriarch of the group, affectionately called Pink Shirt Lady by friends and family alike, was also the most competitive person there. I saw the eye of a conqueror in her leer.
It tastes like: Winnie the pooh decided to mix Piglet with his honey
Award: Sweetest Chili, Most Competitive Pink Shirt Lady.
Sensationally Delicious and Scrumptious Chili
Who: A chill bald dude with a teenage kid. Bald dude was super enthusiastic.
What: Sensationally Delicious and Scrumptious Chili prides itself on being the only turkey chili in the competition. Turkey chili has seen a great resurgence in the 18-25 demographic.
It tastes like: Thanksgiving with Pablo Escobar
Award: Turkish Prize of Nationalism
Cigar City Pork and Black Bean Chili
Who: A chili sage with her eyes on the prize.
What: If presentation is everything, Cigar City Pork is the universe. Bread jutted out from my serving cup like a dolphin half leap out of the sea over a Tampa Bay sunset. It brought a tear to mine eye. The pork was fantastic tasting and the Cigar City beer used is evident.
It tastes like: Craft Beer Drinking Hipster’s Drinking Chili
Verdict: Top 5
Award: Chili Presentation so good it almost made me cry for the first time since I watched Simon Birch when I was 8.
Navy Bean Lady Chili
Who: A proud navy enthusiast. Wait. Isn’t Semper Fi Marines? I’m soooo civilian right now. The first of many chili distributors to credit love as the winning ingredient.
What: The most standard chili in the game.
It tastes like: What you would expect normal chili to taste like.
Award: The chili where I really need to start pacing myself award
Who: A lady who looked exactly like my 3rd grade teacher. If she was my 3rd grade teacher, was she impressed or disappointed with my progress? Me either Mrs. Bell, me either.
What: Strong pepper presence in this meaty and sweet chili. Also, great photoshop skills and attention to detail on that sign. Maybe I should have taken this whole thing a bit more seriously.
It tastes like: What all chili must taste like to starving people
Award: Thanks for reminding me my stomach is imploding Award
Trophy Guy and Gal Chili
Who: A gal with infectious enthusiasm and a proper guy with a yellow bandana.
What: Trophies adorn the table. An intimidating snake is the logo. A large stainless steel pot was flanked by pineapple. I asked the guy what made his chili the best and he gave me the theory of cooking. The chili was amazing because it was marinated in beer at 37.5 Kelvin and fermented with goat milk from the himalayas.
It tastes like: If Michelangelo had decided to put his energy into chili instead of the Sistine Chapel.
Verdict: Best Chili. Number 1
Award: The Fountain of Youth if the water was Chili Award
Chemistry Team Chili
Who: College students brazenly telling everyone “Hey chemists eat too!”
What: Keep your cool, stare them in the face, shake their hand. Never show weakness. No one will know that your stomach wants to answer that rock bottom or crowning achievement question.
It tastes like: Alchemy. Likely a hunter potion. +12 Critical Strike
Award: Where’s the bathroom?
Boston Red Sox Hat People Chili
Who: Two ladies wearing the dreaded Red Sox logo on their hats.
What: Woah the sour cream has chipotle peppers in it. Easily the best accessory of all the chili. These ladies also had trophies. With sour cream like that baby, I wouldn’t doubt it.
It tastes like: A forest nymph’s secret sour cream stash somehow preserved in the woods
Verdict: Top 5
Award: The Best Dairy, Wait Why am I eating dairy oh godddd noooooo
Puerto Rican Grandma Special, Baby. Chili
Who: Latino guy and gal placed in the center of the now unfolding chili madness.
What: When prompted, the guy told me this recipe was a precious family heirloom from his recently deceased Puerto Rican grandma. Damn, it got morbid real quick. This is one of the most unique chilis in attendance. It had the consistency of mac and cheese and it had I think chorizo in it? Not breaking many stereotypes.
It tastes like: A lagoon occupied by dastardly pirates off San Juan overtaken by the rising chili tides.
Verdict: Top 5
Award: The most culturally influenced chili
Florida Fruit and Chili Representative Chili
Who: A dude with a strong grasp of fruit and its potential ramifications on the taste of chili. He was very aware of current issues in chili politics and promises he is doing his best to make sure he best represents the USF Chili Cookoff.
What: His chili crockpot was flanked on both sides with colorful fruit and bountiful vegetables. This guy brought a certain amount of craftsmanship rarely seen in this day and age. It was both a throwback to traditional ideology and a throwback to the beginning of food ingestion itself.
It tastes like: Lemony fresh chili dragon babies
Verdict: Top 5
Award: The my friend gave it best chili award
Pretty Girl in Viking Helmet Chili
Who: An intoxicating girl in a viking helmet and a white dress. I am sure she in Craigslist missed connections as we speak about our magical chili dialogues. When you said it was “made with extra love,” did you mean me?
What: A pretty girl in a viking helmet. Do you think she will mind my GI Joe collection? Is that my heart pounding or my stomach participating in self deprecation?
It tastes like: Chili wasn’t great. But there was a pretty girl in a viking helmet. Where is a harp when you need one?
Award: Most Offensive Outfit Toward Vikings Award
The People I can’t quite remember Chili
Who: Some guys and girls who made chili, I think?
What: Well, you see, yeah, so chili was made with beans and meat. It was good.
It tastes like: How I always remember chili when I have to try to remember chili because I don’t remember chili.
Award: Pretty Good Chili Award guys
Manliest Military Meat Chili
Who: Three very amped chili military bros high fiving to the rhythm of “Abacab” by Genesis.
What: A meatacular chili extravaganza. When asked what seperated their chili from civilian chili, the large one glared at me with an emasculating glare and brazenly said “Well here is a few good reasons: I’m a marine, he is army, see that guy, that guy made the recipe. He’s navy. Also, this is made with Bison” I regretted the question and thought about what defined me as a man.
It tastes like: Like sacrifice I just could never understand. In a good way.
Award: Maybe I Should Join the Military Award and be a man who eats bison and doesn’t continually disappoint his Uncle Joe
Who: Guys who just look like they enjoy a nice glass of vitamin D milk.
What: The only queso based chili. If my stomach hadn’t reached critical mass yet, you can bet your keester this chili is going to put me out of commission for days, weeks, heck even a month.
It tastes like: A planned funeral suicide when I am 150 years old. Death by eating too much chili observed by loved ones and all of my farm animals.
Award: Cheesiest Chili
After the Queso Chili, I had completed the octagon. I sat a minute and contemplated the meaning of it all. Chili culture, American culture, my culture. Sometimes you need stomach pains to make you truly appreciate the right to eat way too much chili on a warm Florida fall day. Thank you chili for bringing culture to America. Thank you USF for letting mere mortals such as me observe such an event. Thank you troops (seriously) for sacrificing your life so that we can enjoy many things, not limited to chili.
Walking away, I couldn’t help but smile. This is America. Life is good.