The heat is on at The Craufurd Arms for the Wolverton Chilli Cook Off

January 29, 2018

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Variety really is the spice of life - especially when it comes to chilli.

Taco Shack and The Craufurd Arms joined forces on Saturday to hold the first Chilli Cook Off where amateur chilli chefs from around Milton Keynes showed off their culinary muscles and did battle to be crowned a chilli champion.

There were ten chillis in the running and the judges certainly had their work cut out for them. Each chilli was unique in flavour with differing intensities of heat.

Robin from the Taco Shack brought out each one in turn, with one container for the judges and another for the waiting crowd which was hungrily eyeing up each morsel. The variety was amazing - there were smoky ones, hot ones, sweet ones, ones made with minced beef, ones with pulled beef and a vegan one. The atmosphere was brilliant with plenty of good natured rivalry and everyone having a go at being a chilli connoisseur (myself included).

The cook off contenders all lined up

There were some total surprises among the contenders with different cuts of meat being used, some included chocolate, while one used the Carolina Reaper, once the hottest chilli in the world at 1.56 million Scoville Heat Units (it's since been overtaken by the Dragon's Breath chilli - 2.48 million SHU - and Pepper X - 3.18 million SHU, although both are to be confirmed by the Guinness Book of Records).

By far and away the most popular of the ten was one which came with accompaniments of lime and cornbread. The flavour was unique with a lovely sweetness as well as a hint of smokiness. It turns out it was made with oxtail - not something you see every day!

The judges tucking into one of the chillis The judges conferring

After going through what looked like endless bags of tortilla crisps, it was time for the judges to put their heads together and come up with their favourites. But before the big announcement, it was time for the hot wings challenge.

Four plucky contenders, including Robs Ribs, threw their hats (and £5) into the ring to go through several rounds of eating chicken wings, coated in Robin's very own hot sauce, to see who was the biggest hothead.

The hot wings

Taking a quick peek at the chicken in sauce (my goodness, there was a lot of sauce) I was beaten back by the heat. This was going to be interesting to watch.

The contestants get ready for the first round of the hot wing challenge

Sitting around the table, the foolish... um, I mean brave... quartet downed a bowl of chicken wings in around a minute. So far, so good. Then it was round two and another bowl of chicken wings bit the dust. By this point, it was enough for one of the contestants, who bowed out gracefully if rather sweatily. Then there were three...

The third round claimed another contestant and it was down to the last two. I, like much of the assembled crowd, thought there would only be another round or two. Boy was I wrong.

FOUR rounds later (that's right, four) and the remaining two contestants showed no signs of backing down although they were looking rather red in the face and the pile of tissues was a testament to how much pain they were in and how much bodily fluid was being produced (too much information?).

It was time for the tie-breaker with the first person to finish their bowl of wings being crowned the winner. It was going to be close as the pair limped over the finish line. And the winner was... Rob!

Hot wings challenge winner Rob

For a first hand account of his hour of trauma, visit his website.

With the contestants now all on the hunt for a gallon of milk it was time to announce the winner of the chilli cook off. Coming first with her oxtail chilli was Kim Wadsworth. The meat was tender and the gravy had fantastic depth - a worthy winner.

Chilli cook off winner Kim Wadsworth

It turns out the chilli cook off was such a success that Taco Shack are hoping to do another one, perhaps featuring curry, later this year. I for one can't wait.

chilli, cooking, LocalFood, StreetFood


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