East campus chili cook-off

Adam Fenton spoons up his prize winning chili at the 8th annual Chili Cook-Off.

Story & Photos by Stephanie Morrissey, NewsNetNebraska

The sweet, spicy aromas of homemade chili filled the halls of UNL’s East Campus Union on Friday.  The 8th annual Chili Cook-Off brought in 13 teams, each with their own versions of the traditional soup. It was sponsored by Student Involvement and the Culinology and Hospitality Management Club

Students, faculty and community members could compete or just eat the entries by making a cash or canned food donation to Matt Talbot Kitchen. Cook-off organizer, Johanna Nutt, said there was a much bigger turnout than she expected.  “This gives you the chance to bring your family’s traditional recipes to life,” Nutt said. “It’s also a good opportunity for students to mingle with the community.”

Red, white and vegetarian

Contestants competed in three categories: red, white and vegetarian.  Visitors had an hour to sample all the chili recipes before enjoying a big bowl of their favorite and voting for the “People’s Choice” award. A panel of six judges taste-tested and awarded winners in each of the three chili categories.

For some, the chili cook-off is an annual highlight. This was Harper Anderson’s seventh time at the contest. Anderson also brought her boyfriend who is addicted to sampling the chili recipes. “My favorite was the first chili,” Anderson said. “Because it was sweet but had a kick to it.” Ryan Geisert, Anderson’s boyfriend said “Number 12” was his favorite chili recipe. “It had lots of nice meat and vegetable chunks in it, got to have the chunks,” said Geisert.  Anderson said she and her boyfriend would love to compete swome day in the contest; either together or against each other.

Harper Anderson and Ryan Geisert enjoy their favorite chili.

And the winner’s are..

Anderson’s veteran taste buds led her in the right direction with the “Best of Both Worlds” chili recipe taking home first place in the red category. Creator, Adam Fenton, said it was only his second time making chili. Fenton said his experience working in the campus dining halls helped. “I didn’t go with one specific taste bud,” Fenton said. “I’m trying to capture the sweetness, bitterness and spiciness so it creates one story in the mouth.

First place in the white sauce category went to the team number two “Jerk Chicken Chili” recipe. (See recipe below) Chef Megan Elizabeth said she’d practiced this recipe once before and was confident her special spices, including cinnamon and nutmeg, would overwhelm the judges’ fall time senses.

Megan Elizabeth is handed her medal and certificate.

The Matt Talbot Kitchen also had its chili skills on display. Even though the Matt Talbot chili team didn’t win a medal, the opportunity to learn cooking skills and compete in the East Campus Chili Cook-off was worth much more. “We try to do this every year and have won a couple times,” said one visitor of the Matt Talbot Kitchen.

The money and food raised at this year’s East Campus Chili Cook- Off funds leadership and culinary training.

Jerk Chicken Chili

By: Megan Elizabeth

5 oz. vegetable oil

7-1/2 lbs. chicken breast meat, cut into chunks


5 onions, diced

5 jalepeno peppers, minced

15 garlic cloves, minced

3 tbsp+ 1 tsp ground cumin

1 tbsp+2 tsp dried thyme leaves

1 tbsp+2 tsp rubbed dried sage

1 tbsp+2 tsp dried oregano

5 tbsp ground allspice

2 ½ tsp ground cinnamon

2 ½ tsp ground nutmeg

2 ½ tsp Cayenne pepper

2 ½ tsp salt

½ tsp ground cloves

10 limes, juiced

20 oz. can chopped green chilies

1 gallon+1 quart chicken broth

13 lbs. canned white kidney beans, rinse/drain

2 lbs. 8 oz. shredded pepper jack cheese


  1. Heat oil in large pot over medium heat. Season the chicken meat with salt and pepper to taste. Stir into hot oil, cook until no longer pink in the center, about 8 minutes. Add onions, jalapenos, garlic; continue cooking and stirring until onions are tender, about three minutes more. Stir in the cumin, thyme, sage, oregano, allspice, cinnamon, nutmeg, Cayenne pepper, salt and cloves; cook and stir 1 minute.
  1. Pour in the lime juice, chopped green chilies, and chicken broth, bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to medium low and cook 45 minutes. Stir in the rinsed white beans, cook 10 more minutes to reheat. Stir in the pepper jack cheese until melted to serve.