Like barbecue, chili is a subject of serious debate, from Mexico and New Mexico to Texas and even Cincinnati, Ohio.
What goes into it? Beef? Pork? Beans? No beans? Tomatoes? No tomatoes? How about spaghetti? And how do you even spell it? Chili or Chilli or Chilie?
One thing’s for sure: People love making and eating chili, at home, at restaurants and at chili cook-off competitions.
The annual Atlanta Chili Cook-Off in Brookhaven and Chomp & Stomp Chili Cook-Off and Bluegrass Festival in Cabbagetown draw thousands of fans, who show up to sample chili from both amateur and restaurant teams, and cast their votes for the winners.
With fall finally bringing some cool temperatures, and Chomp & Stomp back on Nov. 3, it seemed like a good time to gather some award-winning chili recipes.
In 2009, when Alex Brounstein opened the prototype of his Grindhouse Killer Burgers concept inside the Sweet Auburn Curb Market, he won first place in the restaurant category at Chomp & Stomp.
Championship Brisket Chili has remained a staple of the Grindhouse menu since, served up in cups or bowls with shredded cheese, diced onion, sour cream and oyster crackers, or ladled on hot dogs.
Brounstein, who lives in Cabbagetown, wouldn’t give out that recipe. But he did come up with a surprising vegetarian alternative to his no-beans, three-kinds-of-meat, Texas-style red chili.
Dubbed Grindhouse Impossible Chili, it uses a combination of Impossible Burger-style “meat,” jackfruit and tempeh in place of the original’s ground beef, shredded brisket and chorizo.
“You can easily get the Beyond Burger, canned jackfruit and the tempeh at Whole Foods and other places around Atlanta,” Brounstein said. “We use a lot of different kinds of peppers, so the recipe definitely has some heat.
“Basically it’s a take on our award-winning Texas-style chili. But this version mimics the textures and flavors of the original without the meat. People could take this recipe and probably figure out how to make the original.”
Howard Hsu, the owner of Sweet Auburn Barbecue in Atlanta, and his team won first place at at Chomp & Stomp in 2011 with their BBQ Brisket Chili. Another take on red chili, it uses ground beef, brisket, white beans and barbecue sauce in the recipe Hsu shared.
“We all collaborated and created this chili for Chomp & Stomp,” Hsu said. “We had brisket, which was obviously part of the recipe. We didn’t think we would win. But we did, which was amazing, and super exciting.
“It’s a very simple, straightforward chili. But it’s a meaty, hearty chili, for sure. I think we just did it right. It’s on the menu in the fall and winter, and we take it off in the spring and summer.”
At Kaleidoscope Bistro & Pub in Brookhaven, chef Joey Riley is both a business owner and a resident, and he’s managed to to take home multiple trophies and people’s-choice awards at the community’s Atlanta Chili Cook Off.
Riley’s Colorado Green Chili has been a big winner and is on Kaleidoscope’s menu during the fall and winter months. It’s made with pork butt, green chiles and tomatillos, plus salsa verde.
And Riley was happy to share the original recipe, only substituting poblano peppers, because they’re easier for home cooks to find.
“I like green chili because it uses fresh chiles, not dried chiles like red chili uses,” Riley said. “It’s not nearly as intense a flavor, but the freshness, and the brightness is just vibrant and spicy, with a world of great, clean flavors. We serve it with homemade chicharróns and they really make it pop. I always like watching someone try it for the first time.”
Scott Taylor is a home cook who has been hosting a chili cook-off party and competition in his Alpharetta neighborhood for many years.
Over that time he’s won with a variety of styles. But Taylor’s White Chicken Chili became such a favorite that he decided it was only fair not to enter it anymore.
The crowd-pleaser is a simple blend of shredded chicken breasts, white beans, butter beans, green chiles, and a whole lot of gooey cheese.
“I’ve been making it for about ten years,” Taylor said. “Even though I can’t make it for the competition, anymore, I make it for the party, but I also just make it for us at home. And it’s a hit.
“It’s a combination of great flavors, it looks good, and it’s easy to make, so that’s a win all the way around.”
These four award-winning chili recipes include red, green and white versions, and one unusual vegetarian take.
Kaleidoscope Colorado Green Chili
A bright, vibrant restaurant green chili made with pork butt, green chiles and tomatillos, plus salsa verde.
Scott Taylor’s White Chicken Chili
This home cook’s award-winning chili is simple, looks good, and is even easier to make with leftover or pre-cooked chicken.
Grindhouse Impossible Chili
This vegetarian version of an award-winning restaurant brisket chili mimics the textures and flavors of the original without the meat.
Sweet Auburn BBQ Brisket Chili
A very simple, straightforward chili. But meaty and hearty. And a good way to use leftover barbecue brisket.
Chomp & Stomp Chili Cook-Off and Bluegrass Festival, 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Nov. 3. Spoons (your ticket to the festival), $10; beer tokens $6; liquor tokens $8. Cabbagetown Park, 701 Kirkwood Ave., Atlanta. chompandstomp.com.