Victory was sweet and slightly spicy for Brice Salley, his granddaughter Penny Salley and David Bullard, the winning team of Saturday's inaugural Mayor's Chili Challenge in Harlem.
"It's the chili that has something for everybody," Bullard said. The team described the tomato and ground beef-based chili as flavorful and spicy, but not too spicy.
The Mayor's Chili Challenge is part of Harlem's First Saturday, which is designed to promote area businesses and get people to shop downtown, said Harlem Mayor Pro Tem Robin Root, who along with Kathy Ham, of the Oliver Hardy Museum, created the challenge.
"We're trying to promote our First Saturday ... and we were thinking it's January, it's cold, chili would work," Root said.
Six teams participated, and about 60 people purchased tickets to vote for the best cook.
The other winners were Harlem Mayor Scott Dean and Dearing Mayor Sean Kelley, who came in second and third, respectively.
Before the judging, each team joined in a little good-natured ribbing about the taste of each competitor's chili. A few traded jokes about some unsavory secret ingredients.
Most cooks chose the standard tomato and ground beef-based chili, but Stacie Hart, of Harlem, took a different path.
"It has nothing to do with chili beans or tomato sauce. It has everything to do with a Southwestern, tequila kick," Hart said.
She used chicken and white beans as main ingredients and kept her chili mild, she said.
Tom Blalock, of Harlem, said he tempered his chili with a little cane syrup and let the testers spice their cups up for a little extra kick.
For a smoky flavor, Barry Paschal, the publisher of The Columbia County News-Times, said he chose to grill his meat and peppers before mixing them into the tomato sauce.
Two other cooks turned up the heat.
Talking about his chili, Dean said, "I brought it (the heat) down so we mere mortals could eat it."
The Salley-Bullard team also claimed the people's choice award.
For its efforts, the team took home $140, Penny Salley said.
Dean said he would never hear the end of losing to the Salley-Bullard team. Penny Salley works at city hall.
"I think this is a good thing (and in the coming years) it'll pick up," Root said.
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