2018 Super Bowl Chili Cook-Off And The Winners Are . . .

Although the temperature outside was freezing, the competition was heated when Pawling Public Radio (WPWL) hosted the Super Bowl Chili Cook-Off on Saturday, January 13. The event, held at the Pawling Fire Station on South Street, featured a spicy culinary competition for cash prizes and bragging rights, with proceeds going to support WPWL. The station has recently completed construction on their new broadcast tower in Wingdale, which will dramatically increase their signal range.

The Chili Cook-Off featured more than 20 entries with a multitude of meat and meatless options. A crowd of more than 100 chili aficionados gathered to sample the creations, which ranged from traditional beef chili, to mac and cheese chili hybrids, and even moose chili. Prizes were awarded in three categories: meat, meatless (as selected by a panel of celebrity judges), and a People’s Choice Category chosen by those in attendance. The top prize in each category would earn $100, and all winners would receive a certificate commemorating their victory.

Judges for the event included many area restaurateurs and culinary experts. The panel was comprised of Mark Ainsworth (chef and author), Rich Parenti (Clock Tower Grill), Ben Christgau (Tap House Tavern), Heather Casto (Chocolate Mousse Catering), and Tyge Rugenstein (Crown Maple and Madava Farms). “This was a lot of fun, and it was for a good cause,” said Rich Parenti, chef and owner of the Clock Tower Grill in Brewster. “I got to meet some really interesting people.”

At the conclusion of the heated competition, the judges came to a consensus and assigned awards for chili superiority. In the meatless category, first prize went to Lisa Kelsey for her “Smokey 3 Bean Chili,” with Christine Bexley taking second prize, and Gina Shustak finishing third. Kelsey also had the distinction of being awarded first place in the meat category of last year’s competition. Said Kelsey (who affirmed that she intends to return to the meat category next year): “I took it as a challenge, because I usually make chili Texas-style – all-beef, no beans. This is the first time in years that I’ve made vegetarian chili. I use dried beans, not canned, chipotle and jalapeno peppers, and a little chocolate at the end. This was a fun challenge!”

In the meat category, Colleen Kaufman emerged victorious, with her beef and chicken chilies being awarded first and second prize, respectively. Third prize went to Bob “Grumpy” Facchin’s creation, “Grumpy’s Famous Chili.” On her victory, Kaufman said, “I literally came here with no intentions of winning. I’m a purist; I don’t add tons of stuff. I just make chili.”

The final prize awarded for the evening were the People’s Choice Awards, voted on by the crowd in attendance. Gregory Mahusky claimed first prize for his “Magnificent Bacon Chili,” with Rich Buttenschon finishing second for his Chicken Chili, and WPWL Chairman Bill Bonecutter taking third prize for his Mac and Cheese Chili.

WPWL’s Super Bowl Chili Cook-Off was an evening filled with spicy creations and community spirit in support of a good cause. Now winners can enjoy a year of culinary bragging rights, and the team at Pawling Public Radio can continue to provide quality programming and look forward to the new year.

Lisa Kelsey’s Prize-Winning Smokey Three-Bean Chili

This 2018 Chili Champion recipe makes about 9 cups chili, or 8 smaller servings. Total preparation and cooking time: about 3.5 hours


1 T olive oil 1 onion, chopped 1 green bell pepper, chopped 1 large jalapeño, minced 1 chipotle pepper, minced 3 cloves garlic, minced 2 T chili powder 2 tsp ground cumin 1 tsp dried oregano 2 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt 1 12-ounce bottle of Dos Equis beer 1 28-ounce can plain crushed tomatoes 1/2 cup dried pinto beans 1/2 cup dried kidney beans 1/2 cup dried black beans 3 1/2 cups water 1 oz. dark chocolate


Heat oil in the bottom of a medium-size, heavy pot or Dutch oven. When oil is hot, add onion and cook for 5 minutes, until just translucent. Add fresh peppers and cook for 3 more minutes. Add garlic, chili powder, cumin, oregano, salt, and chipotle and cook for 2 minutes. Add beer, scraping up any bits stuck to the pot. Boil down until reduced by at least half. Add tomatoes, dried beans, and water. Bring mixture to a full boil and boil for one minute, then reduce heat to a very low, gentle simmer, cover, and cook for 2 ½ to 3 hours, until the beans are tender. Stir occasionally and add more water if necessary. Add chocolate, stir to incorporate. Taste for seasoning.

Serve with lime wedges, sour cream, diced purple onion, cilantro, and shredded cheddar cheese.