Fire & Ice: The Long Awaited Battle!

by Dylan Connors, IT Services

Crock pots full of chili with ladles on plates in front

After five years, the Fire & Ice Chili Challenge returned Wednesday, March 27, in a heated battle between cooks across the university. The last challenge was in April 2019, and we had to unfortunately put a pause to it in 2020 due to COVID-19. But we came back even bigger and better this year with eight more departments than we had five years ago. That's a whole lot of chili!

Earlier this year, each department held their own mini competition, choosing a single winner. IT Services held its challenge on February 22, National Chili day (which you can read all about in our article here)!

Each of the departments' winners worked hard, cooking away to prepare the best chili!

The lineup included:

  • EMSS: Craig Bennett
  • IT Services: Patrick Hawk
  • Libraries: Aaron Shrimplin
  • Physics Department: Mandy Pettit
  • The President's Office: Ted Pickerill
  • The Provost's Office: Padma Patil
  • Rec Center: John Mihevic
  • Residence Life: Sarah Meaney
  • UCM: Courtney O'Banion
  • University Advancement: Mollie Young

A Little Friendly Competition

Tim Jones, wearing a red Oxford shirt and sport coat, stands in front of a table of judges, emceeing

To stir up excitement, we had a little fun sparring on our X account. While we were modest, we were pretty confident in who we were rooting for.

Tim Jones from Miami's Advancement Services was the emcee for the day, helping to introduce the judges and calling out each chili by number to be served to the judges. Something that we did differently from back in 2019 is we had the judges blindly serve the chili so that they didn't know which chili belonged to each contestant. Each chili was given a number so the judges could keep track of their observations and assessments.

Our judges were well-equipped to identify the best bowl of chili (from left to right in the photo below):

  • Chris Howell, Program Director, Physicians Assistant Program
  • Bill Snavely, Mayor of Oxford
  • Liz Mullenix, Provost
  • Mike Crowder, Dean of the Graduate School
  • Michael Light, Associate Director of the Office of Institutional Research

 Our table of judges

Mayor Snavely regarded the competition as "fierce and the chili was quite good as a result. So fortunate to be a judge and taste them all! Congratulations to all the entrants."

"I was so excited to be asked to be a judge for the Fire & Ice Chili challenge," Mike commented. "We got to taste so many different types of chili; each contestant had their own unique take on chili. I had a great time."

The Long-Awaited Victory

The chili medal for first place

After all these chili-less years, there wasn't a person in the crowd who wasn't eagerly anticipating who would be declared this year's winner. After careful consideration, the judges made their final decisions.

In first place, we had John Mihevic from the Rec Center with his chili that won the judges away!

"The event was a lot of fun to participate in this year," John said. "It was great to see, smell & taste so many varieties of chili! Look forward to seeing this event grow each year that we are able to do this!"

In second place, we had Padma Patil from the Provost's Office who said that "The Chili Challenge was a fantastic opportunity to connect with Miami colleagues in the spirit of competition and good food. I also learned that the key to tasty chili is letting it spend ten days in the freezer!"

Finally, Sarah Meaney from Residence Life took third place!

Shout out to Patrick Hawk, the winner of IT's individual chili challenge, for winning the People's Choice! "Thanks for nominating my chili as the People's Choice!" he said. "There was a lot of gouda competition! Thanks goes out to everyone for showing excitement and growing this competition from two groups to 11."

John Mihevic, Padma Patil, and Tresa Barlage Zianno, who stood in for Sarah Meaney 

Thank you to everyone who participated in the revival of the Fire & Ice Chili Challenge. A special thank you to IT's very own Leah Harris, Joanna Kellogg, and Elizabeth Parsons for all their hard work in planning this event and bringing it back to life!

We may have lost this year, but best be sure we will be back next year to reclaim what's ours! Stay tuned for Fire & Ice 2025!