Berkeley College won bragging rights this weekend: It is now the “Home of Yale’s Best Chili.”
Yale Dining hosted its second annual “Chili Throwdown” in Commons Friday to raise money for United Way, an international nongovernmental organization that funds local initiatives for health, education and financial stability. The judging panel, which included Dean of Yale College Mary Miller, Master of Berkeley College Marvin Chun, winner of last year’s Iron Chef Yale competition Kevin Adkisson ’12 and Assistant Chief of Yale University Police Department Ronnell Higgins, taste-tested 22 different recipes made by Yale staff members from across the University. First place went to Aldo Gargamelli, chef of Berkeley College dining hall.
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This year’s Chili Throwdown raised over $2,400, more than twice the amount raised last year, partly due to the addition of a silent auction with culinary items, said Manager of Dining Services Maureen O’Donnell, who serves as a liaison between her department and United Way. Heather Calabrese, chief operating officer of United Way, praised Yale Dining for throwing a well-organized event and for choosing to support an important cause.
The winning chili stood out because it had many layers of flavor, complemented by its fresh ingredients, Adkisson said.
“Too many of the chilis seemed either too prepackaged or bland,” he said. “[Berkeley’s chili] didn’t have any of that, it was just a wonderful recipe.”
Miller said she looked for simplicity of ingredients in chili, and especially enjoyed recipes that included lots of fresh vegetables and deep hints of chipotle juxtaposed with cilantro. She added that she was disappointed to taste liquid smoke in one of the entries.
“I imagine chefs starting out with fresh vegetables and meat simmering until it’s exquisitely tender and the flavors are well married together,” she said.
Chun said the judges went through three rounds of tasting and deliberation before reaching an “uncontroversial consensus.” The chilis were labeled with numbers instead of names, so Chun did not know which one belonged to his college until after the voting.
The number of entries rose from 17 to 22 this year. The contestants included each of the residential college dining halls except for Silliman and individuals from the Yale Dining staff. The Yale-China Association and other organizations from the University community also brought their chilis to the battlefield. Executive Director of the Yale-China Association Nancy Yao Maasbach submitted her “Chin-Chili,” which utilized Chinese ingredients such as Tsingdao beer, but also coffee and cocoa powder.
“I take it very seriously,” Maasbach said. “I didn’t want to destroy the concept of chili but I also wanted to make it Chinese.”
Gargamelli, winner of the first-place, pot-shaped trophy, said it “felt great” to win this year, especially because his creation did not make it to the throwdown last year: His manager accidentally dropped it on the sidewalk on Cross Campus.
Matthew Cretella, chef of Saybrook and Branford colleges, won second place, and Associate Chaplain Stephen Weber came in third. Chris Carbone from Yale Catering received the most votes from attendees of the event and won the “People’s Choice Award.” Guests paid $5 minimum at the door and received five poker chips to vote for their favorite chilis.
The Chili Throwdown took place from 12 p.m. to 2 p.m. on Friday in Commons.