Get ready for some good eats.
Historic Columbia’s Palladium Society hosts its Chili Cook-Off on Saturday, Feb. 11 at Music Farm. This annual event, benefiting Historic Columbia, showcases teams of cookers competing for the bragging rights to best chili in town.
Chandra Williams of Ole Timey Meat Market on Rosewood won last year’s competition with chili made with lamb, chorizo and fresh hominy.
“We used fresh hominy rather than beans because they hold their shape and have a great texture … they don’t get mushy like beans,” she said.
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Williams has been working to perfect this year’s recipe – something with duck and andouille sausage, she hinted – trying to find a balance of heat and flavor.
Will Gettys and Alex Baez, co-workers at Cyberwoven in Columbia, are seasoned chili competitors. For the past three years, the two have been competing in the company’s internal chili cook-off. The winning recipe is sent to represent Cyberwoven at the Palladium Society event .
This year, it came down to Gettys’ recipe for pork and hominy (which he says he’s been tweaking for a couple of years) and Baez’s green chili with beef (a new recipe he devised). Baez’s green chili won over the Cyberwoven tasters. The two will be preparing the required 40 quarts of chili (about four Crock-Pots) a day or two in advance – “that’s so the flavors get a chance to mingle,” Baez said.
These veteran competitors have some advice for first-time cooking teams:
Make the chili spicier than you would at home. “The judges are looking for spicier dishes,” Gettys said.
Use fresh ingredients. “The more effort you put into it,” Williams said, “the better it will taste.”
Make the chili ahead of time. Williams, who makes her chili 24 hours in advance, said you can’t rush chili. “It’s a true labor of love.”
Bring extra people. “It’s daunting,” Baez said. “The doors open (at Music Farm) and the crowd … is just THERE.” Having a couple of extra hands to dish up the chili samples makes life easier. Gettys said three or four people is the perfect team size.
Take time to sample the competition. You can learn a bit about spice combinations, variations of recipes and maybe gain some respect for a type of chili that you’ve never tasted. (Vegetarian or seafood, anyone?)
Have fun and be memorable. Have something that sets you apart from the rest of the competition, like a great team name, funny hats – and of course, great chili.
If you go
Palladium Society’s 19th annual Chili Cook-Off
WHEN: 5:30-8 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 11
WHERE: Music Farm, 1022 Senate St.
COST: Advance tickets are $25 for Palladium Society members, $30 for Historic Columbia members, and $35 for general public. All tickets at the door are $45. Ticket price includes all-you-can-eat chili, wine and beer, and live music from the Kenny George Band and the Nick Clyburn Band. VIP tickets available for additional cost.