After four hours of cooking the night before (which was almost twice as long as I had estimated for in my head)- Joe and I woke up really early the next morning to pack our chili into containers and head over to the Meat House in Coolidge Corner. After simmering and testing for four hrs, we ended with three batches of chili totaling four gallons. Unfortunately, none of the batches really tasted the same and we had to mix everything together near the end for a more consistent flavor.
This is where I learned my first lesson: I should really follow some sort of recipe when in competition mode and cooking in three different sized pots. "Going by feel" is not a good strategy when all of your pots are different sizes and everything just smells of beef.
We were smart and ended up getting there early. Lesson #2 learned from the chili cook off: Always get there early so you can stake out your space and get set up without being crowded by other people. Also, if you were like us and had to travel via cab to get there, giving your chili enough time to properly heat is key (no one wants to sit with a hot pot of chili on their lap!)The most important lesson I learned though was just to have fun! All my competitors were super friendly and everyone tried out everyone else's chili. It was great "selling" my chili to all of the people who came by. I realized early on not to call it a "chocolate and cinnamon chili" but to refer to it as "a traditional chili with a hint of chocolate and cinnamon at the end". I learned this lesson the hard way as some old lady snubbed my chili and refused to try it after hearing my description. After going through about three of the four gallons, the three hours were up so we cleaned up and got ready to go home. (What up competitor #7!)
Although I didn't advance to the second round I had a blast and would totally do it again! It didn't hurt my ego either that one of the girls at the Meat House said my chili was her favorite! Can't please everyone, but I'm glad someone other than Joe liked it.
And my final lesson? (Call me cheesy, but just we celebrated our 4-yr anniversary) Having good help is awesome in these competitions. It's always more fun when you do things as a team, and there's no way I could've cooked four gallons of chili and carried it to the store without Joe's help. Also, it gets tiring and sometimes discouraging standing behind a table for three hours and it's nice to see a smiling face in the crowd. It doesn't hurt knowing at least someone aside from you likes your chili.
Can't wait for my next cook off!