Fourteen amateur chili cooks (yours truly included) entered — only one came away the winner, but that's hardly the point.
Saturday marked the twelfth annual Racer's Cafe Chili Cook-Off, and the bar was packed to raise money for the family of Andrew Alton Dowley, who passed away at 2-years-old as a result of Sudden Unexplained Death in Children, a little-understood disease.
"After we had some friends lose a child, we started raising money for their charity," said Lisa Redifer-Fedder, a Racer's regular and one of the chili judges.
After the chilis were judged, patrons were invited to donate in order to get a taste of the chili. All-in-all, the competition raised $500 for Andrew's Pins for a Purpose, a charity operated by Andrew's parents Pete and Julie Dowley.
"This isn't just a bar, Racer's is our family," said Pete Dowley. "For us, the damage is done. Our goal is just to raise money as a support for others — and hopefully to find a cure so that no other parent has to go through what we went through."
"You don't know, the last person to walk in today and give their $5 — that could be the $5 that helps find a cure," Dowley said.
Entrants were required to show up at Racer's with a crock-pot of their finest chili by 1 p.m. and were judged by a panel of six Racer's regulars.
The winner, Parkville's own Eric Esler, used a combination of ground and cubed beef in his chili. Esler took second place in the competition last year, but this year was able to dethrone reigning champ and Timonium resident Kara Wunder.
"I use poblano, ancho—which is a smoked poblano, and cayenne peppers," Esler said. "One thing that I do differently, I prepare the chili on the stove top like everyone else, but I finish it in the oven — you don't have to mess with it, or worry about it burning."
Rich Merryman, 2011 winner Kara Wunder and Adam Krieger took second, third and fourth places respectively. As for your Parkville-Overlea Patch editor Nick Gestido? Fifth place. Not bad for a first time entrant.
Did you come out for the 12th annual Racer's Chili Cook Off? Which chili was your favorite? Tell us in the comments.