First ChiLLy Fest chili champ will defend title

Published 9:14 pm Friday, December 11, 2009

Charlie Reid’s chili cooking team, The Red-Hot Chili Papas, has the historical distinction of being the winner of the first-ever ChiLLy Fest chili cookoff, taking the overall trophy last year in Linden. This year, the team will be back to defend its title.

The chili cookoff at the second annual ChiLLy Fest will begin at noon today (Saturday), with the judging to follow from 3 to 4 p.m.

“I wasn’t planning on taking part again this year,” Reid said, “but I think I’ve got to go down there to defend my title. I liked the idea of retiring undefeated, and there was a pretty good chance of that happening, but now, I feel obligated to go back down there.”

The team consists of Reid, Robert Woods, Doug Saunders and Frank Osborne, a group of chefs who have a good time — and then, the chili’s done.

Reid said he took part in the chili cookoff last year because he thought ChiLLy Fest was a good idea, having something like this so close to home.

“It sounds like a good thing,” he said. “I think Linden’s got the right idea about getting something like this going. It’s an all-day event. My whole family was involved from about 8:00 that morning to about 9:00 that night, doing something. They participated in the Run, we participated in the cookoff, they went to the fair, my kids got to ride in the floats in the parade. It’s an all-day event for us.”

Reid was willing to share some of the secrets to his recipe, although whether they can be taken as fact or not is entirely up to the individual and how much he can swallow.

“Back in the 1800s, in the lower side of Texas, where Frank and Jesse were notorious, chili was really popular, and they had what they called ‘chili houses,’” Reid said with a straight face. “Believe it or not, there were some towns that they wouldn’t raid because they liked the chili recipe there.

“It just so happened that some of my family was involved in that, and they realized what a good thing they had, so they kept it in the family. We’ve kept it all these years, and in fact, I’ve still got the same boat paddle they used to stir the first pot of it. It’s a treasured item in my house; it’s kept under lock and key constantly.”

Despite the story, Reid and the Red-Hot Chili Papas will be on hand in Linden today to defend their title. If you choose to take a sample from them or any of the other chili teams, you are bound to get some of the best chili in this area — just watch for the baloney.