You Toucan Enjoy Great Chili!

posted May 3, 2010, 8:08 PM by Stephen Zenter
Saturday marked quite an event at Johnson Space Center.  It did not involve Space Shuttles, zero-G experiments, or even astronauts preparing to fly in low-Earth orbit.  Ground beef, tomato sauce, and cumin were more the like - it was the 32nd Annual JSC Chili Cook-Off!  Although the rain held out all weekend for the event, the clouds and high humidity were in full force Saturday.  Sara and I woke up early, packed the car with chili fixin's and gear, and made our way to the cook-off.
This was just our third year to attend the cook-off and our second year to participate.  Sara's company, MRI Technologies, hosts the Toucan Two-Can Chili Team.  This year Sara reigned as team captain, while I again cooked more than 42 quarts of chili for public tasting.  We started at 7am by setting up the tropical-themed store front.  This year we provided a PA system complete with music and a microphone, which can be quite entertaining after several hours of free drinks and a party crowd.  While the Toucan team started their round of Space Trivia, I prepared 45 pounds of chili grind for the cooker.  As the team performed their skit for the gathering crowd - a rendetition of New York, New York done Toucan style - I put the finishing touches on my mixture of beef, tomato sauce and spices.  See the skit here!  Public tasting began at noon and lasted until 3pm.  During that time, hundreds of people filed through to get their tasings of 54 chilis prepared by each team all cooled down with some ice-cold beer.  In just 3 hours, all of the Toucan chili was gone, and I had turned in my share for official judging.  Throughout the public tasting the Toucan Chili team enjoyed entertaining, feeding, and partying with the crowds.
Late in the afternoon came the moment we had been working all day for - the awards ceremony.  First came awards for the games each team participated in: The grapefruit pass, spoon drop, and human pyramid build.  Our team accepted the award for 3rd place in the grapefruit pass.  But even more exciting, 3rd place in overall team Showmanship!  This was definitely a credit to Sara's hard work preparing for the big day and getting an exciting team together.  Then the big moment came as the judges announced the chili cook-off winners.  My chili has been proclaimed great by our team at last year's cook-off and many of our friends and family in the past year.  All the practicing for the friends paid off, as we placed 10th out of the 54 teams!  This was quite an improvement from last year's run when we didn't make it past preliminary judging.  It made all the hard work and cooking well worth the effort.  Sara and I cannot wait to bring the Toucan Chili Team to victory again next year!