Gimme chili: Chili Cookoff heats up Fishtown

It seems like an odd ritual – getting together to compete over who can cook up the spiciest, most savory and delicious chili.

But in Fishtown, that’s how locals get down.

Dan Chambers, Chad Crowther and Paul Lile, collectively known as the “Meat Sweats,” spent 72 hours preparing their Texas-style beanless chili, which took home the Critic’s Choice award in the resident chefs category at the annual Chili Cookoff of the Fishtown Neighbors Association.

“What separated our chili from the others was the smoke,” said Chambers, who was in charge of smoking 15 pounds of brisket with hickory and pecans for eight hours.

“Smokey and sweet, with a little bit of heat,” was how he described their award-winning flavor.

“We don’t have any left to take home, but that’s the point, we wanted to share it,” said Crowther, who went to culinary school but does not work as a chef currently.

“It’s about creating food for our brothers in the city of brotherly love,” Lile said.

Chili chefs from Lloyd’s Whiskey Bar took home the first place award in the People’s Choice competition for the second year in a row.

Fishtown’s not the only neighborhood to hold a chili cook off, but their competition, which features chili by 25 chefs, is one of the fastest growing. This year’s event packed the meeting space at 2424 Studios on East York Street and had the highest pre-sales ever.

“At this point it’s fully established itself as something the FNA does,” said Jill Betters. “I talked to all of the chefs and they were all having a good time.”

Meat Sweat’s award-winning chili recipe:

Take 40 lbs. of meat: brisket and tri-tip. Smoke 15 lbs of brisket with hickory and pecan. Dice and sear the rest on a flat top.

Roast up your poblanos, habaneros, serranos, and jalapeño peppers.

Prepare lime-cilantro crema.

Mix in six-gallon pot with garlic, dill, and Himalayan sea salt. Add tortilla strips.