Texas Club Chili Cook-Off: Bigger and Better

Sunday, April 24 marked the celebration of the 12th Annual HBS Texas Club Chili Cook-off, which pitted HBS’s best chili chef’s against one another for school-wide bragging rights. Despite some early morning showers, nearly 600 HBS students, faculty, and families turned out for the event. For many, this was their first chili cook-off and they were shocked by the amount of time spent on the teams’ chili preparation and the decorative complexity of their booths.

Texans traditionally go way overboard with things like this, and this event was no exception with huge section posters, chili pepper table clothes, homemade cornbread, Texas flags, and plenty of Texas Longhorn and Texas A&M Aggie paraphernalia. The most creative decoration was from fellow Texas Club co-president Chris Harlan (NB), who had an official sign saying how NB chili was certified finger-free.

Celebrity judges for the event were HBS professors Dan Bergstresser and Hank Reiling, who both had the honor and privilege of tasting each of the chili entries. When the awards were handed out, NJ took home the award for most spirited section, lead by the cheering efforts of Cate Lybrook and the extravagant booth decorations of Allison Neumann and her now world famous Texas-shaped cornbread.

Once the judges made the announcement we had all been waiting for, OF won the competition and New A took home 2nd place. For all of you wannabe chili chefs out there who are looking for some advice for next year, OF chili captain Rich Rao said they “found the best cuts of meat, dry-rubbed and then charred the meat over a mesquite fire, and finally, saut‚ed the meat in the rendering of bacon.” They also went so far as to cook four small batches of high potential recipes before the event and pulled aspects we liked out of each recipe for their final pot of chili for the competition.

The NA team lead by chili captain William Pritchett went heavy on the chili powder and red pepper and advises to add the spices early and let it all simmer a while to let the flavors come through. The most noticeable absence from the victory circle was NI, whose Lane Walker not only guaranteed victory prior to the cook-off, but also claimed that both of NI’s entries would take home 1st and 2nd place.

This wouldn’t be a Texas event if there weren’t a little controversy. Before the judging even started, there was a heated exchange on whether or not REAL Texas chili contains beans or no beans. In the end, the situation was resolved peacefully as both sides realized that they just had to agree to disagree. In a slightly more disturbing story, several witnesses claimed to see an OF section member hand one of the chili judges an envelope with the words “bribe money” written on it in big letters.

Famed country mega-band Country Mile gave an amazing performance as partygoers were baffled at how we could find such a good country band in Boston. They’ve been playing the cook-off for years and more info on the band is available at They played for a solid four hours and were regularly taking requests from the partygoers. This event would not have been able to take place without the generosity of our two main sponsors – the Texas offices of McKinsey and BCG, along with the support of the HBS Energy Club and the Harvard Law School Texas Club.

May 2, 2005
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