Competition for Chili Challenge is heating up
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Routt County Cattlewomen have something to prove this year after getting knocked off the podium last year at the Chili Challenge in downtown Steamboat Springs.
Salt and Lime chef Chad Whitaker’s Smokey Colorado Chili captured first place in the red chili category last year.
“I wasn’t expecting to win last year,” Whitaker said. “I was just going over there to have fun. It was an enjoyable surprise.”
Mary Kay Monger heads up the “community” chili pot for the county’s cattlewomen. Every year, about eight ranchers make their own pot of chili then gather at Monger’s home to create a community pot. They use their own beef of course because, after all, they are the Routt County Cattlewomen’s Association.
“We mix it all together and then we go from there,” Monger said. “We add stuff, we do taste testing. It’s never the same, and there’s no recipe.”
The cattlewomen have won a lot of first places for their red chili and captured the “people’s choice award” a number of times during the competition’s history.
But last year, Whitaker decided to “beef up” one of his regular chili recipes with a little fire.
“I twisted it up a little bit and smoked the brisket,” Whitaker said about his winning chili.
There are four categories in this year’s Downtown Chili Challenge, which will held from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday during the Main Street Steamboat Farmers Market on Yampa Street. The event is sponsored by Main Street Steamboat Springs, and it is being held for the 14th year.
There are red chili, green chili, salsa and cornbread categories. Market goers can buy a tasting kit for $10, which will help fund downtown holiday activities, including Santa’s House and Light Up the Night.
Buoyed by last year’s win, Whitaker plans to enter the green chili category this year with a pork chili.
“We enjoyed the success for our whole team, but it’s all going to the betterment of our downtown,” Whitaker said.
And ever a gracious winner, Whitaker pointed out that he’s looking for tough competition from The Smokehouse chef Kyle Love, whose chili he called “tasty” last year.
In the meantime, Monger and the other cattlewomen will be gathering Friday night to spice up their “community” chili pot to take on the best of the county’s restaurants and caterers.
“We always have so much fun doing this. It’s a social event,” Monger said.
Frances Hohl is a contributing writer for the Steamboat Pilot & Today.
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