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November 07, 2013

Da Mystery of Chili-cookin'

November 07, 2013

Not everyone around the SmallBox office is a hip-hop fan, but the name Wu-Tang definitely evokes a sense of… (rapper’s) delight. That’s because reigning Chili Champ Jon Rogers pulled off an unforgettable cook-off victory in 2012 with a classic chili recipe he named Wu-Tang Chili Ain’t Nuthing ta Mess* Wit–36 Chambers of Deliciousness.

Our photographer Mayowa and I recently had the honor of sitting down with our culinary Method Man (see what I did there?) to get the story behind this sweet and savory victory, as well as some of his tips for pulling off the greatest of fall culinary feats.

Jon's chili is nothing to mess with.

So, why the name? Naturally, Jon was listening to Wu-Tang tunes as he prepared his recipe on Cook-off Eve, but he also believes marketing plays an integral role in an open cook-off (this year's contest will be anonymous).  Put simply, Jon believes his urban theme "resonated with people." 

How to Cook Everything - cook books are one way into the chili cook-off world.

In Jon's eyes pulling off a chili cook-off victory stretches beyond marketing – he says it's also a combination of luck and strategy.

Luck, because with a staff full of dietary restrictions and general pickiness, the vote can really swing anyone’s way (again, he stresses that campaigning is critical to the competition). Strategy, because well, it takes a plan to perfect a delectable recipe of 36 flavorful chambers.

Part of Jon's strategy includes hand-choosing many of his ingredients. There are certain recipe components, he says, that benefit from the fresh, organic or grass-fed variety, while other canned products are completely acceptable.  

What does a recipe for chili cook-off success look like? Jon boiled it down to these few points:

  • Be picky about ingredients.
  • Make your chili a day before serving.
  • Be sure the chili has a nice consistency – it can't be too liquidy.
  • Taste the chili after each component is added. 

The 2012 Chili Cook-off winner.

Chili cook-offs have been a part of Jon's life for as long as he can remember, from church to school to family competitions. After 2012's crazy competitive contest (our CEO Jeb–who smoked his pork for 24 hours–forfeited in a tie), Jon has spent the last few months preparing and experimenting. 

This year's competition is sort of Jon's swan song, as he transitions out of SmallBox and in to Musical Family Tree's full-time director. Do you think he has what it takes to Triumph? Or will someone else Bring Da Ruckus? Drop me a comment and let me know! 

* Edited for “professional” purposes.

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