Spices, sauce and meat.
That's all it takes to make a great chili, right?
Well, not exactly. It all depends on what's in the sauce, how the meat is prepared and cooked, and those secretive spices.
Even championship husband-and-wife teams do their best to keep secrets close to the vest, as Mary and Ed Pierczynski did Saturday during the first day of the weekend High Sierra Regional Chili Cook-off at Glen Eagles restaurant.
Husband and wife stood side-by-side, over nearly identical camping stoves, simmering seemingly identical pots of chili.
Ed Pierczynski, the 1992 International Chili Society world champion, has been making chili for decades.
"That's my fully automatic wife that I made the mistake of teaching how to cook chili," he joked, glancing over at his better half's bubbling stove.
"I let him taste mine, but I don't think he gives me the best advice," said Mary Pierczynski, the outgoing Carson City School District superintendent. "We do cook a similar recipe. It's in the end when you really make a difference."
Mary Pierczynski isn't a slouch when it comes to these events, either. She finished fourth in the world in 1994, while her husband finished fifth.
No fewer than five former world champions cooked chili Saturday, in a field that included the founder of Northern California-based Jimboy's Tacos restaurant chain.
Ed Pierczynski's technique for the meat included "washing" it with club soda to reduce the grease content.
"You get a chili with too much grease, the judges will kill ya," he said.
The competition, which ends today, includes red and green chili categories as well as salsa. Those who score top finishes proceed to the International Chili Society world championships, to be held later in the year.
The competition is a friendly one, Harry Robinson of Lincoln, Calif., said, up until the point competitors add their secret ingredients just before the chili is finished.
Robinson's "Trash Can Chili," for example, was made possible Saturday with the kindness of his fellow chili competitors, who proffered spices after Robinson had forgotten them on this trip to Carson City, which has hosted this competition off and on since 1978.
"They're the best people in the world," Robinson said.
Scott Ruff of Carson City, whose parents Bill and Georgie started this competition, won last year with his "Ruff's Racin' Red," seemingly a tribute to Scott's love for radio-controlled cars.
Ruff made it all the way to the final table at the World Chili Championship in Omaha, Neb., last year, in a World Series of Poker-style elimination.
Ruff was on the final table with 30 chilies before leaving with a top-10 finish.
He would find out soon if this year's creation would win over judges, who cleansed their palates with cool sour cream and free beer.
Jim Brady, a state worker who helped coordinate this event, said many of the judges are those who just love the no-beans creations cooked up by competitors and have for years. Though they had score sheets, Brady said judging isn't always cut-and-dried.
"The biggest question is, which one do you like best?" he said.
• City Editor David Mirhadi can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 881-1261.
Chili cook-off results
1st place: Ron Boisseranc, San Jose
2nd place: Adrian Fuhrman, Felton, Calif.
3rd place: John Jepson, Merced, Calif.
1st place: Adrian Fuhrman, Felton, Calif.
2nd place: Gerry Lind, Rocklin, Calif.
3rd place: Dennis Robinson, Boise, Idaho
1st place: John Jepson, Merced, Calif.
2nd place: Anita Kerr, Carson City
3rd place: Lynn Robinson, Lincoln, Calif.
The chili making continues today at Glen Eagles Restaurant with the Nevada Capital Regional Chili Cook-off. Winners from Saturday and today's events advance to the world finals later this year.