What Better Day For a Chili Cook-Off Than a Rainy One?

The 12th Annual Grand Central District's Chili Cook-Off

Kevin and I were honored to be asked to be judges of this year's Chili Cook-Off. The event took place in the 2400/2500 blocks of Central Ave on February 18th, 2017 from 12:00-4:00, with check-in in front of The Old Key West Bar & Grill. We were told that we did not need to be there for the entire event, but that we needed to allow enough time to try all 34 Chili's. In trying to be strategic about how to handle this, Kevin and I actually googled a few articles on the best way to judge this type of contest and we set forth with what we thought was a good plan.

Grand Central Chili Cook-Off

Chili Cook-Off Flyer

We decided to arrive at 2:00 and figured that that should give us plenty of time to just take one bite of each one. Any more than that and we would not finish. With our trusty photographer, Barry Lively of B.Lively Images, in tow, we set out on our mission.

Unfortunately, it was raining. Drizzling at first but at one point it was an all out down pour. We took an Uber to the check in point, got our wristbands and our score cards and started at the top of the 2400 block.

(Photo credits to Barry Lively of B.Lively Images)

Grand Central Chili Cook-Off

Tabby Lou, an entrant in the individual section

We were to score on taste, aroma and aftertaste with a score from 1 - 3 for each. We actually stopped after each and every booth so that we would not forget from tasting to tasting. Our original plan was to taste five and then take a break. Well that didn't quite work out. We actually powered through seven before the down pour started. We decided to wait out the rain in Urban Deli and Drafts with a quick beer that we shared. By this point, we looked down and it was almost 3:00. How in the world were we going to get through 27 more chilis in an hour? At least the rain had stopped.

Grand Central Chili Cook-Off

The Down Pour

Grand Central Chili Cook-Off

Kevin and Lori with Laura Servedio, marketing director of The Urban Group

After leaving Urban Deli and Drafts, we ran into the Mayor. While we have seen him at many events in the past, it was our first formal introduction. He was just arriving to sample some Chili himself and make an appearance.

Grand Central Chili Cook-Off

Mayor Rick Kriseman with Kevin and Lori

We also ran into Ted Dorsey and Jason Griffin of The Mill Restaurant. As you can see, my original plan did not factor into it any socializing time. Four hours seemed like a long time but we found out that two hours went by in a blink of an eye.

Grand Central Chili Cook-Off

Jason Griffin, Lori, Ted Dorsey and Kevin

At this point, I had to become vigilant at getting us to each stop, tasting and rating as quickly as possible. Now we were sharing a tasting cup and a spoon at each stop and trying to move on as fast as we could while judging fairly. Kevin and I decided in the beginning to not share any notes or thoughts as we went and to take pictures of our score cards before we turned them in so we could compare notes later. We thought this would be the most fair way.

Grand Central Chili Cook-Off

Moving around as quickly as possible

Besides ourselves, Ray Rao of Creative Loafing was also a judge and all of the attendees had a token to vote for their favorite in the People's Choice category.

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And The Winners Were

Judges' Choice Individual: Gary Mayfield

Gary Mayfield

Gary Mayfield - 1st Place Winner as an Individual for Judges' and People's Choice

Judges' Choice Business:  METRO Health, Wellness & Community by Susan Elliot

Grand Central Chili Cook-Off

Judges' Company Winner: Metro Health & Wellness by Susan Elliott

Judges' Choice Restaurant:  Old Key West Bar & Grill St. Petersburg


Judges' Choice Vegetarian:  Community Cafe

Grand Central Chili Cook-Off

Judges' Choice Vegetarian: Community Cafe

People's Choice Overall:  Gary Mayfield
People's Choice 2nd Place: Mark DiSclafani
People's Choice 3rd Place:  New Western Acquisitions

In the end, we had an absolute blast!  What a great event! I would highly recommend that you put this on your calendar for next year! At $10/person in advance or $15/person the day of, it is great fun, great food and a great value all wrapped into one...we would definitely do this again with a new strategy next time.

Grand Central District's 12th Annual Chili Cook-Off
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Took place on the 2400/2500 Blocks of Central Avenue in St. Petersburg, FL on February 18th, 2017. There were 34 chili entrants from local restaurants, businesses and individuals. Awesome vendors. Great music from NoiseMakers, Inc. and Southern Pinellas County's School of Rock for Kids.

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