IT chefs return to chili competition capers

by Elizabeth Parsons, IT Services

For the first time since February 2020, the scent of spice and peppers filled the air of the second-floor breakroom of Hoyt Hall.

After four years of waiting, the anticipation heavy in the air, IT Services finally once again hosted the beloved annual Chili Competition. Eight contestants convened to battle for the coveted IT Services Annual Chili Contest trophy, a time-honored plaque and gold ladle that has celebrated its share of spicy chili winners over the years.

A golden ladle on a wooden plaque. The plaque says IT Services Annual Chili Competition First Place Winner

The spots up for grabs: First place, second place, and People’s Choice. The second place trophy is a silver ladle that the recipient can take home, and the People’s Choice trophy is always a bowl of questionable origin and design. Over the years we have had striped bowls, bowls with gaudy gold rims, and now this wooden monstrosity.

A wooden bowl with gaudy golden handles

Five brave judges stepped forward to offer their taste buds as tribute for this historically hot competition: Randy Hollowell, Amy Liu, Shane Schlichter, Daryl Wright, and John Millard.

"I really enjoyed the event," said Wright, associate director of research with enrollment management and student success, who traveled to Hoyt for the day. "It was great to step away from usual work routines for a while. And for me it was nice to be part of an event hosted by IT Services. I already knew a handful of folks from there—it was good to connect with them—and to chat with a few others who I had not met before."

As longtime readers may know, we are serious about our chili in IT Services, and we have these events down to an exact science. The contestants were judged according to five different criteria, including: aroma, color, taste, texture, and aftertaste/bite. Each chili was given a score from 1 to 6 in each category, with palate cleansers offered between each serving. It was very official and mathematical! In addition, the chilis were intentionally served by a neutral third party (Leah Harris) so that the judges did not know whose entry they were trying at a given point.

A community of cooks and creativity

Around 50 people from IT Services, the Board of Trustees, and FBS-IT came to celebrate National Chili Day. As it was the first such celebration in exactly four years, everyone was excited to come together over their shared love of spicy food and lunchtime camaraderie. And there was something even for folks who didn’t want to enter a chili—desserts, chips, and other snacks were brought potluck style for the occasion.

"A wondrous event enjoyed by all," said CISO John Virden. "The biggest turnout we've had, all enjoying the savory chili, snazzy snacks, and amazing delectable desserts."

A table filled with crock pots
A snack table with chips, guac, cornbread, and other delights

And the math didn’t lie…

The judges placed their votes, carefully marking a grade for each of the chilis for the criteria.

In what some may consider a “par for the course” type triumph, security analyst Patrick Hawk came away victorious! This victory is reminiscent of his win at the bigger Fire & Ice event between IT Services and the Libraries in 2019—at the time, he was an employee of the Libraries, but now, we have Patrick on our side!


"Totally looking forward to dominating at Fire & Ice 2024!" John Virden continued, writing checks that hopefully Patrick will be able to cash (we are confident in his abilities; after all, his chili-making skills have been tested and proven several times now).

We’ll have to see what the university-wide Chili Challenge will bring! For now, we are excited that in the midst of all the hubbub of RapidIdentity, Google Workspace challenges, Workday, and more, for this one afternoon we were able to get back to doing a thing that we love: eating and talking about food together.

"Thanks go out to everyone that participated and I'm stoked that I was chosen to represent IT in the up and coming Fire & Ice challenge!" Patrick said. "I look forward to sampling the best of the best to see how my chili stacks up. See you in March!"