At the 2011 Hispanic Heritage Food Fiesta, Shirley Brown was named this year’s “Chili Champion.” Reigning champion Randolph Wilkinson will pass on the famous sterling silver chili bowl trophy, which is annually engraved to display the victor of each year’s challenge. As a chili connoisseur, Shirley Brown was ecstatic when announced as winner. She understands that the US Department of Agriculture takes chili seriously.
Despite being a great opportunity to socialize and taste a variety of chili recipes (from white chili to spicy chili with jalapeño corn bread) the Chili Challenge is more than just a friendly competition. Standing as a tradition within the USDA since 2003, the Annual Chili Challenge is intended to bring together participating individuals of diverse cultures and backgrounds to share in a spirit of fellowship. This year’s event was a success. Ten chefs brought their homemade chilis for the enjoyment of USDA employees. The event also hosted the Black Minority Employee Organization, Organization of Professional Employees at USDA, Blacks in Government, and Federally Employed Women, all of which gathered around the Whitten Patio to celebrate our diversity and commemorate Hispanic Heritage Month.
This year the challenge was judged by Under Secretary Ed Avalos, Chief of Staff Krysta Harden, and three talented chefs, Lance Lemin, Pedro Matamoros, and Toni Tipton-Martin. Chef Lance Lemin and Chef Pedro Matamoros are cooking things up in Washington DC: Lemin serves Sodexho’s Government Services Division as the Federal Division’s Area Executive Chef and Matamoros is a Common Threads’ DC supporting chef of 8407 Kitchen Bar. Working in Austin, Texas, Chef Toni Tipton is doing big things in the biggest state of the continental US. Tipton was one of 700 Chefs present at the First Lady’s launch of her Let’s Move Chefs to Schools initiative and has been successfully raising nutrition awareness in the Hispanic community as part of a partnership between her nonprofit organization and the University of Texas Division of Diversity and Community Engagement. Her presence was truly meaningful to this event, not only due to her culinary expertise but also because of her advocacy for childhood nutrition and her commitment to helping underserved communities.
Congratulations to Shirley Brown on a well-deserved victory. Enjoy your year as Chili Champion and get ready for the next, as the competition is bound to be delicious. Thank you to everyone who attended the 2011 Hispanic Heritage Food Fiesta and participated in the Annual Chili challenge. Together it was a lively fiesta filled with food, fun, and laughter.