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Chili in Here?

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Denver has had newspaper wars for as long as there have been newspapers, and just because the size of the papers is shrinking doesn’t mean this war is any less intense. But another, newer battle between media outlets took place last week, and it was even more…heated.

The Women’s Bean Project hosted its third annual chili cookoff at the Denver Press Club on Friday, pitting 28 chili cooks -- the majority of them from local papers, TV stations, magazines and other organizations or outlets – for bragging rights and first prize: the Gold Crockpot.

It was a charity fundraiser, sure, but you wouldn’t have known it by looking at the likes of Rocky Mountain News columnist Bill Johnson, Denver Post food editor Kristen Browning-Blas, Denver Daily News reporter Peter Marcus or Press Club president Bruce Goldberg. These folks showed up with serious-looking pots of chili and their game faces on.

As a longtime chili cook myself, however – one who has repeatedly refined his recipe over the past decade -- they looked like suckers. I figured the Gold Crockpot was mine.

Things started well. My Angry Cow Chili got compliments from Bean Project volunteers, as well as the head chili judge, event PR person Lisa Cutter, Rocky assistant features editor Maria Cote (who dished her own spicy chicken chili next to me and gets props for plugging my concoction all night) and even Browning-Blas who correctly identified the cumin and oregano in my recipe. Post columnist Bill Porter and 5280 scribe Robert Sanchez didn’t seem as enthused. But that was fine. They would feel Westword’s wrath at judging time.

But when the winners were announced, I got a chili chill. I had been bested in the public voting by Post reporter Elizabeth Aguilera (who won the Silver Crockpot) and Rocky photo-guy Jaime Aguilar (who took the Bronze), as well as a ringer from the Emily Griffith Opportunity School who won the coveted Gold. But even worse, the official judge awarded his prize to Goldberg (and Boots Gifford, who Goldberg admitted was the brains behind the brawn -- and the beans in the winning chili), the press club president!

Suspicious? You bet it is, and this Westword editor intends to throw every reporting resource he has at uncovering the truth behind this scandal – just as soon as I get done revising my recipe for next year. – Jonathan Shikes

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Join the Westword community and help support independent local journalism in Denver.