Chili, chili, chili. . .
Foodies, outlaws, some in a flash of heightened consciousness, serve up
By TRAVIS PURSER
Express Staff Writer
Imagine eating 13 kinds of chili, then going home to your family.
Dozens of people at the Valley Market Sunday did just that when they
sampled, among others, "Girl Catchin Chili," "Outlaw Chili" and
chili made from elk.
Self-proclaimed "research historian" Ivan Swaner, 66, was there
gathering data. Negotiating spicy morsels around a two-inch-high handlebar mustache, he
exclaimed, "Ill put my moose chili up against anybodys!"
Moose chili? Yep.
Bellevues 4th annual chili cook-off (feel the heat, gringo)
attracted contestants from all over the state, at least one displaced Texan and a
near-world-championship-chili cook-off winner.
"Wheres the Maalox?" inquired the gray-bearded Art
Barrett, 58, standing over his foil-wrapped hot pot.
Barrett, peering between his bifocals and leather gunslingers hat,
explained that of the dozens of cook-offs hes competed in, this is the first one
hes ever seen without a handy supply of antacid available.
A Boise resident, Barrett said he has competed in Coeur dAlene, San
Francisco, Las Vegas andthe highlight of his chili-cooking careerin Terlingua,
Texas, where he finished in the top 10 of 800 contestants in the 1985 world championships.
Barretts advice to novices: "You cant be
boredyouve got to do something with it every once in a while."
Which brings us to our next contestant.
Chipotles, pasillas, a squeeze of lime to separate the flavors and
"this falls kill"Alaskan moose.
Those were just a few of the ingredients that went into Kate
Keatings red-hot concoction.
Keating, a native of Van Alstyne, Texas, insisted moose is one of the more
prosaic meats shes ever heard of anyone putting into chili.
Other options? Squirrel. Armadillo. Rattlesnake.
Keating, who wouldnt give her age for the newspaper because she has
a crush on a younger man, she said, waxed philosophical about why genuine chili never
"It originated with the tradition of the cows and the influence of
Hispanic chilies," she said. "Thats why theres no beans."
Competing at a neighboring table was Keatings son-in-law, Adam
Stone, a goateed man looking very professional in a red apron and white, button-down
shirt. Milling around the crowd, you could overhear people saying things like, "His
It begged the question of whose is better, Keatings or Stones?
The nonchalant Keating: "Well, considering hes only using
Stone, who in fact won the competition, merely grinned and raised an
eyebrow when asked how his recipe compared to his mother-in-laws.
Perhaps Stone got a tip off to his imminent victory when his popular
"Santa Fe Green Chile Chili" was the first entry to be completely consumed by
the ravenous crowd.
Free from his serving duties, he sidled up to this reporter to wrangle a
Stone, 28, was obviously whats known in the restaurant business as a
"foodie"a nonprofessional with nearly all the skills and sometimes more
enthusiasm than many top-notch chefs.
He described his first cooking contest last summer in Ketchum as if it was
a right of passage. His dish, grilled halibut with a tomato, basil, honey and basalmic
vinegar sauce, came a mere one point away from winning an "awesome, awesome"
outdoor grill, he lamented.
"I really wanted it bad," he added.
Stone won $100 for taking first on Sunday.
Sometimes, slow and steady wins the raceor comes in second
anywayand Fritz Shafer of Hailey, keeping a low profile, did just that.
Spurning the clever sobriquets and theatrics, Shafer was strictly business
serving up his no-name, four-hour chili. No doubt his secret ingredientsbeer and
chorizocombined with his attention to detail and his friendliness to help him nail
down second and a $50 prize.
Not bad for a first-time contestant.
Jim Mayne tied for third, pocketing a $25 prize.
Mayne, a cross-country trail groomer for the Blaine County Recreation
District, conceived his "Boulder Mountain Chili" in a flash of heightened
consciousness following an 80-hour grooming session during which he never slept, he said.
Deep, rich and mellow, Maynes chili got its kick from hot Italian
sausage, its allure from sweet Italian sausage and its substance from beef.
James Turley, also taking third, was nowhere to be found until the awards
presentation. A woman served his "Girl Catchin Chili."
When asked if Turley caught her with the chili, Katie Nilsen, 23, said
"I have no idea." Appearing a little jaded, she explained that the name came
from Turleys grandmother who invented the recipe.
Perhaps like everyone else, she had had too much chili, not enough chili
or too many different kinds by then.
As for the cook-off, Nilsen summed up: "Its everything I hoped
it would be, and more."