Insider’s Crib Sheet to Chili Bake-Off 2011


Once again ManCuisine prepares for the annual Minnesota Mild Chili Bake Off. As the perpetual last place holder in the bake-off of years gone by I thought I should prepare the public for this year’s event in light of the places we have reviewed. An insider’s look at the competition may help those of you attending this year’s event to better prepare for the gastronomy ahead.  I’ll take the tact of walking the reader through the cooks.  First the dads:

Brad. Somehow his love of Scandinavian food has not yet allowed him to finish in the top five of the places.  This year we might expect him to further sabotage his efforts by trying to include herring in the mix. So very Ingmar Bergman. Brad’s style is similar to the style at the Convention Grill.  A bit dated, no surprises just good stable food served in a nice environment.

Doug, on the other hand, ramps up the effort always trying to find ways to live at the edge of the rules. Much like the end of chaos characterizes our shifts in climate Doug’s Chilis have shown great variety and extremes. Many were concerned that his uber-heat last year might lead to a change in the rules. Nonetheless we all cleaned the bowls without spoons to the point that a dishwater was not needed. This year the insider is predicting an apparently common ground beef recipe that turns out to be hot cuisine (haut cuisine?). Consider Mayslack’s when thinking about Doug’s chili. The floorboards are showing a bit of age but the food reveals attitude and substance.

Now the sons:

As instigator of the GNO/ Mancuisine group Trevor showed great promise in his ability to pull together odd collections of things into a meaningful and fun group. Often his chilies have revealed the same. King of the secret ingredient we might expect to finally see mango in a chili recipe this year. Not to be taken lightly, Trevor creates the score sheet that would impress even the folks on the Betty Crocker Chili Bake Off list.  This year the insider thinks Trev will work more in the pork domain, perhaps some Cuban collection of heat and tropics. Trevor is to Chili as Anchor Fish and Chips is to Mancuisine. Flavor, great atmosphere, and a good brew to wash down the rest.

Adam is the true Maverick of the group, not in a Sarah Palin way but in a 1960’s B&W TV show kind of a way. He dresses his chili dark, but it’s the good guy in disguise. He has nailed the winning combo with nothing more than ground beef, a can of beer, and a source of heat yet to be determined. Many think he has a secret chili garden in the closet running on hydroponics and cold fusion. The insider is confident that this year’s offering from Adam could include cheese, although that may be a bit too much of a tip to the Green Bay Packers. Adam is, without a doubt, the 5-8 Club of Mancuisine. Fun solid, and without pretense.

Kyle’s subtle approach often goes unnoticed until the sheets are tallied and he has emerged on top. Kyle brings serious California dreamin’ to the green things added to his chili. Brussels sprouts and even lima beans are not beyond possibility with Kyle although his trademark might be the slow burn heat he manages to assemble. Consistently inedible by the moms in attendance due to their lack of respect (or perhaps their healthy respect) for caliente! his chili often requires some side diary product.  The insider is a little confident in predicting that this year will be the year that Kyle brings on some central African chili with seafood. When comparing his cooking to restaurants imagine the Town Hall. Looks like most other places but the surprising brew selection and really tasty food surprise all the time.

Isaac has had the most variability in attempts at chili over the years. He exhibited genius last year by adding a chili from one of the four-star restaurants in the city to the collection as a base for comparison. Most likely to take a risk on a recipe that could blow away the crowd he is known for the tastiest of the blends but exhibits a wide range on the scoresheets. We do not expect this to change this year so look for some use of his new training as a pastry chef to enter into his work.  Perhaps a crem-chillae’ with hints of mint and chocolate. Our maybe a caramelized chipotle base with pastry bowls provided. Compare Isaac’s work in the bake-off to Lyndale Tap House. Great variety, not a miss, but on the edge of upper crust (it is Uptown after all).

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