Chef Royce entered the Getting Chili in Soul City Chili Cookoff, held Saturday at Sankofa, 5820 W. Chicago Ave. in Austin, not knowing how people might react to her short-rib beef chili recipe accompanied by a cornbread waffle.
“This was my first time making this recipe,” Royce said. “I did a test run on it last week and thought that this might be it but last week I made a smaller batch. This time, I tripled the batch and wasn’t sure if I had the flavors right.”
Royce said she also made a vegetarian chili topped with pickles, sweet onions, avocado and sautéed jalapeños. But she could only enter one recipe. She chose the short-rib beef. In the end, the bet paid off.
Royce, who owns Kiss My Dish Soul Kitchen, took first place among 14 contestants who entered the chili cookoff, which was judged by State Rep. Camille Lily, State Rep. La Shawn K. Ford and radio host Marseil Jackson.
The cookoff was organized by the Austin African American Business Networking Association (AAABNA).
Charmaine Rickette, AAABNA’s chairperson and president of Uncle Remus Saucy Fried Chicken, said the event attracted roughly 200 people.
“We’re going to do this again because it seem like we’ve started something for the community to change the narrative of the community,” Rickette said. “People were excited about it. The whole focus is to keep money circulating in Austin.”
The Austin Chamber of Commerce, Austin Coming Together, the West Side Health Authority and Hope Church also participated in the cookoff. Each tasting was $2 and the participating contestants were able to keep the revenue.
For Gregory Raggs, whose chili took second place, the cookoff was an opportunity to showcase his culinary skills. Raggs is the founder of Gamma Ray Inc., a nonprofit that supports young people and senior citizens.
“I was raised by my grandmother and she raised me to cook,” Raggs said, adding that his turkey, chicken and beef chili was topped off by beef franks with “all the bells and whistles.”
There were two third-place winners: Shaquila Adams, of Kooking with Keke, and Khalilah Johnson, the executive director of the Austin Chamber of Commerce.
“I host a chili cookoff at my house every year so this was a good chance for me to practice my recipe before I enter the real cookoff at my house,” Johnson said. “I researched the best chili recipe and used a lot of fire-roasted tomatoes, brown sugar and lots of spices.”
Letrusia May, a board member for AAABNA, said the event was an opportunity to galvanize people around the concept of transforming Chicago Avenue into Soul City.
“We wanted to do something nice for the Soul City Corridor,” she said. “We are making this Soul City and it takes a village to make that dream come to fruition.”