At 4 PM yesterday afternoon, I decided to enter a chili cook-off that my department's social committee had organized as part of a Texas Independence Day themed pot-luck. Short notice, I know, but I knew I could work some magic in the kitchen. With such a short time-frame to work with, I didn't want to go the normal route of winging it completely, so I found a nice base recipe and then went to work.
The end result was nothing short of phenomenal. I let myself start thinking about winning the cook-off (though winning was not the goal when I entered, I am way too competitive to keep it from becoming THE goal). As the other entries arrived, and people in the department began sampling, my confidence grew. The feedback was excellent. Then came time for the judging.
There were three judges, and as far as I could tell, only one had any previous experience at doing this. Finally, the moment we had all been waiting for arrived. There was only to be the announcement of a winner -- no 2nd or 3rd place awards. However, the judges deviated from the rules and announced an honorable mention. This chili was voted #1 by one judge, while the eventual winner was tops with the other two. Mine was the honorable mention.
Disappointed? Yes, but I could live with it. I figured the winning chili must be pretty damned good. Wrong! I tasted it and had to choke it down. A coworker spit it out. Others mentioned it as having an "almost rancid" taste. How does this happen? How does one chili win out with 2 out of 3 judges, while losing out with nearly everyone else? I demand a recount, an investigation, bribes must've been handed out, favors had to have been called in, the winner must've had dirt on two of the judges! For the record, it was the judge with previous judging experience that picked mine as #1.
In the end, it was all good. My coworkers loved my chili. Who cares about the judges anyway. It isn't like there was some huge award for 1st place. My prize was a near perfect bowl of red, and the satisfaction of knowing my peers enjoyed it too.
Before I forget, I want to thank my kitchen staff. Without you, I might have won...just kidding.