The Realm Chili Cook-off: 10 Years Without a Food Poisoning Incident

Chili 10-year anniversary

We believe it is worth noting that our Chili event has grown to include not just chili but also a massive dessert bar and we have STILL not had a major gastro-intestinal incident. And that makes us pretty proud. We tried to turn that into a tagline, but couldn’t find the right words to rhyme with “intestinal distress.”

So, without further ado, let us recap the years on this, our 10-year anniversary of wet, not-quite-soup, food.

Most Wins, Overall

Hands down, Jeff Gray has owned this category with a whopping four wins. From the beginning, Jeff has been the one to beat – the target of every up-start chili maker. It’s no surprise that the office’s most prolific cook also won the first cook-off. It was also no surprise how aggravating it was to try to unseat him!

Below is Jeff at our first Chili Cook-Off ever… So young, optimistic and full of life.

Editors Note: During review, Jeff insisted we mention his “Three Peat Win” back many years ago, because it was very “impressive.” We have officially mentioned it. 

And here’s Jeff on his fourth win. It’s sad, really, knowing this is the last time he will hold the trophy and wear the crown. He looks so positive, completely oblivious to the tragedy he will endure over the next several years as defeat after defeat rolls in.

You had a good run, Jeff! But now it’s just painful to watch as a former champion tries, annually, to recapture his lost youth and his chili trophy.

Jeff Gray's final trophy

Bravest Career Move

Speaking of defeating Jeff Gray…. In what is still considered a surprising career move for the newest hire (and we mean new… like a few months, new). Melissa tore down Jeff’s reign with her entry. Beating him harshly. We wonder if this was the defeat that broke him. Made him unable to field a competitive entry for years to come.

Seen below, Jeff gives up the trophy, begrudgingly. He looks happy. But… we know he’s dead inside now.

Jeff Gray gives up the Chili trophy

Aged… defeated… and struggling to maintain his chili vigor and life. Maybe this is your year, again, Jeff! We’re all rooting for you!!
(No, we’re lying… we all still want to beat you, soundly)

Most Unjustified Trash Talk

Taunting and trash talk has always been part of the 10-year tradition. And no one has taken so aggressively and annoyingly to this as Gregg Khedouri. Having won one year, after preparing test batch after test batch, Gregg has been unrelenting since. For 365 days, the team had to endure being reminded about her win as the reigning Chili Queen. And, after being cast down from her ever-so-brief throne, it has been non-stop trash talk.

As we enter the third year from her ignominious win, Gregg is doing it again. Claims “I’m gonna win! You’ll see” have been ringing through the office.

So… here she is in her winning year. Yes, yes… you won. You are surely gonna win again (eyes rolling).

Gregg and Kathryn winning for chili and desert

The Gracious Winner

Carmen has won two times. Even though this was her idea in the first place, and her husband is a chef, we don’t really hold it against her, much. Even though her husband Leo is known to be an exceptional cook and rumored to be a chili chef extraordinaire, how could you possibly think he offers any unusual advantages… how?

Well, at least when Carmen wins, you’d don’t hear about it for a year. She takes her crown, smiles and moves on. Probably giving the crown to Leo that night, but that’s an unsubstantiated rumor.

Here’s Leo, er… Carmen accepting the her first place title of that year’s cook-off.

Carmen wins a chili cook-off

The Big Hat

No one’s quite sure where this stylish, knit crown came from. What we do know, is that during the early days of the Chili Cook-Off, the crown appeared. Since then, it has been granted to the winner,  to be worn and held for an entire year. Legend has it that the crown offers unusual power over chili, making the holder more difficult to defeat.

Now, we’re not a superstitious group, but the unusual appearance and inexplicable power of the crown makes us question our facts. To date, the crown has never left the office… no outsider has yet been able to capture first place, to become the chili monarch.

And there is an even older legend that says, a challenger will one day arrive and defeat the reigning king or queen. And on that day, the imbued knit crown will leave the offices forever.

Or it’s just a knit hat. Choose your own adventure.

Chili Crown

The Great Bean Trophy and Shrine of Winners

Over time, the citizens of Realm felt it was important to celebrate and honor their noble victors. So, a trophy was made from raw materials gathered from such remote regions as The Home Depot and Michael’s. Consisting of glass, a spindle and a bunch of dried beans (do NOT cook with these. Because, gross! They are not magic, unless you consider diarrhea a super power), the trophy now represents the pinnacle of power for the Chili Cook-Off.

Many have held it, but few have controlled it. Even the all-powerful Jeff and the wily Carmen have not been able to keep control for very long. One has to wonder… why is that? What is it about this trophy that makes it so powerful, indestructible, even.

We don’t wonder. Because we remember the year when the cleaning company knocked it over and smashed it. We built it again, but it was a reminder of how frail and fleeting the trophy, the Chili monarchy itself is!

The year the trophy was broken


As we prepare to celebrate 10 years, it was good to reflect back and remember: Everyone must beat Jeff Gray. Except you, Gregg… We’re all trying to beat you too.

See you on October 25!!


Further Editors Note: Prior to publication, Jeff Gray felt compelled to share every photo of him winning. Apparently, we had not recognized him enough. So, here is another picture of Jeff, the Trophy and the Crown. For-the-love-of-all, please beat him this year. 


Jeff Gray again

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