Dining With Denise Neil

Dining with Denise didn’t win the chili cookoff, but a restaurant did

I survived my first Wichita Wagonmasters Old Town Chili Cookoff – barely.

On Saturday, I became a first-time participant in the popular downtown event, and wow. What I imagined as an opportunity for leisurely face time with readers turned into a frantic, adrenaline-fueled fight for chili survival.

The event was particularly popular this year. A record number of teams – 92 – entered, and people were packed into the three-block stretch of Douglas where the participants were set up. When the horn sounded at noon, signifying the start of public tasting, I had a line of 50 people waiting for a sample at my booth. I don’t know where they came from or how we got them all fed, but somehow, we did.

My bff and co-worker Jaime Green and I cooked chili all day on Friday in our Instant Pot pressure cookers, and on Saturday, I arrived downtown at 7 a.m. to set up my booth. It was an experience and an adventure that I survived only with the help of a few generous colleagues and friends.

We’ve made a fun behind-the-scenes video as part of my Dining with Denise video series. Watch it, and if you want the recipe for the wonderful green chili we served, you can find it below.

One exciting result from the festival: Old Mill Tasty Shop, the downtown restaurant that operates within the footprint of the annual chili cookoff, won the big trophy – the Grand Championship. The restaurant entered both its house green and its house red chili in various categories. Here’s a list of all the winners from Saturday.

ICS Salsa

First - Toucan Chili II

Second - Hog Call Chili

Third - Possum Belly

Fourth- Hot Lick Chili

Fifth - Fat Travis Chili

ICS Chile Verde

First Hog - Call Chili

Second - Hot Lick Chili

Third - AIP Afterburner Chili Team 2

Fourth - AIP Afterburner Chili Team 1

Fifth - Possum Belly


First - AIP Afterburner Chili Team 1

Second - Blue Moon Chili

Third - Hog Call Chili

Fourth - Sterling Silver

Fifth - State Farm - Red Hotz


First - Emerson Biggins

Second - Old Mill Tasty Shop

Third - Savor - Intrust Bank Arena

Fourth - The Diamond Plate Truck

Fifth - Twin Peaks

No Beans About It

First - Kansas Two-Step Chili

Second - Wichita Children's Home

Third - B-Unit's Fireball Chili Team A

Fourth - State Farm - Red Hotz

Fifth - AIP Afterburner Chili Team 1

Anything Goes

First - Kansas Two-Step Chili

Second - State Farm - Red Hotz

Third - Afterburn

Fourth - Emerson Biggins

Fifth - Hog Call Chili

Chili for Charity

First - State Farm - Red Hotz

Second - CASA of Sedgwick County

Third - Wichita Children's Home

Fourth - Passageways

Fifth - Ladies Oriental Shrine of North America

Team Spirit

First - Wichita Public Schools

Second - Via Christi Regional Burn Center & Pediatric Intensive Care Unit

Third - Kims Academy of Taekwondo Kicking It Chili

Fourth - Big Momma's Chili Town

Fifth - Twin Peaks

Best Booth

First - Big Momma's Chili Town

Second - Pool Trends

Third - Old Mill Tasty Shop

Fourth - Cell Block # 9

Fifth - Mental Health Association

People Choice

First - Kan-Grow Hydro Farms

Second - Code 3 Chili

Third - Afterburn

Fourth - Savor-Intrust Arena

Fifth - The Chili of the Plains

Grand Champion

Old Mill Tasty Shop


Jaime and I made our Saturday chili without the beef, but it’s good both ways. FYI: Instant Pots are on sale today on Amazon.com.

1 pound ground beef, browned

6 tomatillos, quartered

1 onion, chopped

4 poblano peppers, chopped

3 Anaheim peppers, chopped

6 cloves of garlic, peeled

1 tablespoon cumin

1 tablespoon salt

Queso blanco cheese

Fresh corn tortillas and lime wedges for serving

Brown beef on saute mode in Instant Pot. Remove and set aside.

Add tomatillos, onion, poblano peppers, Anaheim peppers, garlic, cumin and salt to pressure cooker. Heat on saute mode until gently sizzling, then seal pressure cooker, bring to high pressure, and cook for 15 minutes.

Manually release pressure. Blend vegetables with hand mixer, then return beef to pot. Stir and serve with lime wedges and tortillas. Top with cheese.

Related stories from Wichita Eagle