I tried to take the chili cookoff seriously, taking notes after every chili I sampled. Unfortunately, it was crowded enough that it was hard to step back from the chili to let other people get their samples while I wrote notes, so my notes ended up very abbreviated. I asked every cook "what do you want me to notice about this chili?"--that's how I have all these details about particular seasonings.
In the order I tried them:
#12: Chimera chili. Made with bison, beef, and turkey, with curry powder and Indian chilies among normal chili seasonings. This was the spiciest chili I ate, and it definitely had an Indian-food tone. The cook was a gamer; he was wearing a Kenzer and Company t-shirt, and his display included miniatures set up in combat.
#11: Kevin McGuire's grilled chicken chili. Grilled chicken and dark kidney beans in a mild, rich broth. This was by far the best-tasting of all the chili, and it had the most attractive presentation, including a punch fountain.
#2: Dragon's Breath Chili. A good standard chili, with smoked paprika and cinnamon. Made by Tara, who was wearing blinking LED jalapeno earrings. Much milder than I expected from the name.
#1: Headhunter Chili. Made by last year's winner, who was by far the most self-hyping of the participants. He was like a stereotypical used car salesman. "No filler, just killer!"
#4: Sugar and Spice and Everything Nice: Very sweet, particularly in the beginning, then a late heat.
#9: White Chicken Chili: Very mild, with some flavor developing after a couple seconds.
#6: Black Bean and Sweet Potato Chili: not much flavor, but a bit of heat developing after a while.
#8: Coconut Chicken Chili. This had no beans or tomatoes, but it added coconut milk and Asian spices. This isn't chili. It had a sign saying "Better Homes and Gardens Contest Winner"--if that contest was a chili contest, Better Homes and Gardens is just wrong.
#7: Yummy Chili: No whole beans, but some refried beans stirred in for a change in texture. Nice smoky savory seasonings, plus a bit of honey that I felt was too much honey.
#10: Sean's Tree City Chili: ground beef, kidney beans. Mild.
#5: All Saints Chili: a whole lot of bell pepper. Slight heat, but not much flavor.
I ended up voting for #7--I actually liked the flavor of #11 better, but I felt that #7 came closer to my ideal chili.
I chatted with Kevin McGuire (maker of chili #11) and praised his chili, and he really warmed to my praise--so much that he offered to send some home with me. I greedily accepted. But he couldn't find a container. So he gave me all his leftovers, in a metal container that he had used to feed Army troops in Iraq:
I swear, if I look for culinary adventure, great stories like this drop into my lap.
I think the best way I can thank Kevin for his kindness (besides making an extra donation to the Rotarians running the cookoff, which I did) is to praise him with contact information for his catering. I'll edit in that contact information when I get back home to his business card.
Specializing in Southern Delights
Office Phone: 412-271-8332
Manager: Melissa Chef: Kevin
Based on the one encounter I've had with Kevin, I would strongly endorse his catering.