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No Beans About It: Making a Meatful Chili with Chion Wolf
Sunday February 25, 5:30pm – 7pm
Members: $12, Public: $15, Children 4–12: $3, Children under 3: Free
Davis Gallery, Main Building, 9 Water Street, Mystic
Everyone brings their own creativity, artistry, and secret ingredient. But when it comes to chili, Chion Wolf says there is one element that cannot be disputed.
“A strange approach, to me, is vegan chili. There’s no such thing. Chili has meat in it. A “vegan chili” is a “spicy bean and vegetable soup.” That being said, I lost a friendly chili competition this year to a vegan “chili.” Mortifying.”
Known as one of the most prominent voices in Connecticut media, NPR’s Chion Wolf is also a chili obsessive and a certified judge in the International Chili Society. Wolf will discuss her experience and fascination with chili and competitive chili cookoffs from 5:30-7 p.m. on Sunday, February 25 in the Davis Gallery of the Mystic Museum of Art at 9 Water Street, Mystic.
Wolf’s talk is part of the Museum’s ongoing I Feel Voxish series, in which leaders in culture and ideas talk about their passions. I Feel Voxish is sponsored by The E-List, Cato Corner Farm, and Barley Head Brewery.
Wolf said her interest in chili competition stems from her father, Peter Gladis, who competed regularly with his “South Philly Chili-Chili from the Real South.” Attending the cookoffs remain fond memories for Wolf. Now a certified judge, Wolf said she competes at least once a year. This May, she will be competing for the first time at the New England Regional Chili Cookoff in Somers, CT. While there are many cookoffs, Wolf said the “big game” is the ICS World Championships, which changes locations. She considers her experience serving as a judge at the 2011 World Championship in New Hampshire as one of the highlights in her life.
While the cookoffs are competitive in nature, Wolf said the experiences are friendly and collaborative and that the majority of events are fundraisers. A judge typically judges salsa, green chili, and red chili, and in a competition will likely sample fifteen to twenty different entries, making notes, and then returning to particularly favored ones repeatedly. While there is a fascination with ghost peppers and habaneros and chili peppers high in scoville, Wolf said she rarely encounters “stunt heat” because it’s about the balance of flavor, heat, color, and texture, although she said heat matters because otherwise the chili is “just spicy tomato meat soup.”
In her own approach, Wolf said innovation is important and part of the history of chili, but she thinks most find a combination that suits their tastes and stick with it because when a cook does then they “build tradition in terms of the process and nostalgia when you feed it to your favorite people.” Encountering all this champion chili, does Wolf ever get chili envy?
“I’ve only had chili envy on behalf of anybody who wasn’t eating my chili.”
When not cooking chili, Chion Wolf is the technical producer, announcer, and personality with WNPR and The Colin McEnroe Show. She also produces and hosts The Mouth Off, a live storytelling event in Hartford, and Chion Wolf’s Advice Show, a live advice show at Sea Tea Improv. Wolf is an actor and member of the Board of Directors of Night Fall Inc., an annual public performance in Hartford, and founder of Pedal the Medal, an annual 26-mile bike ride that benefits BiCi Co, Hartford’s only bike co-op. Wolf said she is unapologetic about her love of onions.