Let Me Teach You How To Make Texas Red Chili

When that cold nor’easter blew in from Lake Pontchartrain last night I got to thinking about chili.

Texas chili.

Texas Red to be precise.

I retired undefeated from the Texas chili wars over a decade ago. Back in the 90s, well before Top Chef became a thing, I organized a series of cooking competitions called Texas Top Cook. I would visit the best restaurants in Austin with an open letter to the cooks in the kitchen.

The letter was a challenge to show up on my French Place proving grounds to compete over big iron pots in my backyard. We’d have 5-10 cooks competing in a variety of fields but the big ones were always concerning chili.

I never got beat in chili but I did taste bitter defeat in a casserole competition (the girl who won eventually admitted that she cheated, and stuffed the ballot box.)

Would you like to learn how to make Texas Red, the ne plus ultra of all chili?

Step right this way

Wick Fowler

Here in Louisiana we take big black pots and pack them with all manners of gumbos, soups, jambalayas, stews and etouffées. Our neighbors to the west in Texas fill their big cauldrons with steer meat, lard, and hot chile powder as they crank out dozens of variations on the chili form.

It was over a half-century ago today – out in the badlands of Terlingua- that a humorist from Illinois, H. Allen Smith, locked horns with Wick Fowler, a war correspondent from Big Sandy, Texas to determine bragging rights on who makes the best chili on planet earth.

It’s a riveting tale.

On Carroll Shelby, Wick Fowler And The Origins of Terlingua Chili

On this day in 1961, Ma Ferguson, the first woman governor of Texas, died of heart failure. She left a Lone Star state-sized legacy but as y’all probably know by now we’re only in it for the chili.

Back in 2013, we produced a pop up restaurant event that we called “Let Us Now Praise Texas Women”

We featured Ma Ferguson’s famous Texas chili as one of seven dishes on our event’s menu.

Here’s what we said about Ferguson’s bowl following the party: Continue Reading

Winners 2018 Frank X Tolbert Wick Fowler Original Terlingua Chili Cook Off

It’s been five long years since we last visited Terlingua.

That part of Texas is one of the prettiest places on earth.

The Terlingua Chili Cook Off has been referred to as the Mardi Gras of the Borderlands and with good reason.

After a few thousand Texas chili freaks get a headful of Mexican dirt weed, tequila and Lone Star it can get downright dangerous what with all the spontaneous gun shooting and hell raising going on. The Saturday night of the cook off can sound like New Orleans’ 9th Ward on a weekend night.

We used to joke that if you showed up at the chili shootout without a gun you were issued one.

We now live a 15 hour drive from Terlingua and lord knows when we’ll be able to take a week off work to make the drive back out to the ghost town of Brewster County.

Last weekend was the 52nd editions of the Frank X Tolbert Wick Fowler Original Terlingua Chili Cook Off. Here are the winners:

1st Place – Becky Daniels, Midlothian, Texas

2nd Place – Sherril Lazarus, San Angelo, Texas

3rd Place – Terry Wright, Lockhart, Texas

From the Associated Press: “In a story Oct. 22 about a recipe for Texas Red Chili, The Associated Press failed to specify in some references that the chili without beans is Texas Red, and not all Texas chilies. In addition, the Terlingua Chili Contest is in Terlingua, Texas, not in Grapevine, Texas. The story should have clarified that cumin and oregano are in the recipe as part of the chili powder blend. The corrected version below also removes the reference to Hatch chili powder, which is not from Texas.”

After reading the Workman article we penned the following Washington Post Crosses The Texas Red Chili Line and reached out to AP to point out several egregious errors in the original piece. After a vigorous back and forth, AP issued the corrected article.

Long story short: Don’t fuck around with Texas Red chili. And do your proper “sweat neck research” or you’ll be hearing from us.

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Eat in a few hundred Texas cafes like this one then write an article about Texas Red chili

Katie Workman begins her hopelessly flawed Washington Post (AP) article on Texas Red chili thusly: “If you know anything about Texas chili…”

Workman then goes on to prove that she knows absolutely nothing about the food so revered that good men have lost their lives over it. Continue Reading