Chicagoan Wins World Chili Cookoff

The winner has been a competitive chili cook for 13 years.

By Susan Ball
|  Tuesday, Oct 13, 2009  |  Updated 1:46 PM CDT
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A suburban Chicago woman is the chili queen. 

Maureen Barrett, 52, of Willow Springs bowled over judges with an "extra tweak" of her jalapeno peppers and won the International Chili Society's world championship cookoff.

Barrett outcooked more than 160 competitors Sunday to win the 43rd World's Championship Chili Cookoff, a three-day contest in Charleston, W. Va., thronged by thousands of chili lovers.

She won $25,000 for her bowl of traditional red chili, in which she said an "extra tweak of jalapeno" might have swayed the judges looking for a perfect blend of meat and spices during judging at Appalachian Power Park, a minor league baseball venue.

This year, 167 cooks qualified for the three-day championship, with 28 reaching the finals table.

Barrett and nine others qualified Friday night for the championship at the Last Chance Cookoff at the ballpark.

"I am telling you it's just amazing, kind of like winning the Miss America pageant - very thrilling," Barrett said following a victory dinner with family and friends. "It just really hasn't sunk in yet."

Barrett said she's been a competitive chili cook for 13 years, a relatively short time compared to the hundreds of chiliheads who travel the country competing in events that serve as qualifiers for the world's championship.

Doug Roy of Florida was the runner-up, and a pair of Californians, John Jepson and Mike Hulka, followed, with Dione Cooley of Nevada finishing fifth.

Barrett said she basically stuck with the same recipe she used Friday except, "I kicked it out and made it a little hotter. Just a little tweaking, a little more jalapeno sauce from a green bottle."

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