A Judge at the Chile Challenge

Fourteen green chiles. Which one was the best? That was the task Saturday, when I agreed to be a judge at the local Rotary Club’s annual benefit Chile Challenge.

I was one of the eight judges, evenly divided to review green or red chile. I chose green.

A green chile from my garden


So while the crowd downstairs decided which chiles and beers were their favorites — for the people’s choice award — we judges were sequestered in a room with carafes of water and ice tea, plus wedges of tortillas. Runners brought small cups of chile made by local restaurants and the high school’s culinary arts program. The cups were numbered so we wouldn’t know who made which chile.

We were to rank each, on a scale from one to ten, on such factors as texture, color, heat, flavor, and overall. I had three cups in front of me at the start but decided I needed more to give a solid evaluation.

I like my green chile to be hot but not too hot. The texture should have almost the consistency of a sauce. And I like deep flavors. 

The cups came faster. No one chile was the same. Some contained posole or corn. Others had bits of chicken. 

Clearly the chile-loving judges in the room enjoyed their task. We spent more time tasting than talking.

We sent out for napkins and one of the judges brought packets of tissues. The carafes were refilled.

I kept tasting each chile in order. Between samples I took a bite of tortilla and a sip of water. I ranked each to the best of my ability.

My favorite? No. 14, which had a good smokey flavor and texture, with a bit of corn. I turned in my score sheet.

So who won? I still don’t know which chile came from which chefs. I left when it was announced voting would end for the People’s Choice Award in 15 minutes. I had another place to go.

Irregardless, no. 14 was my winner. I gave it a 10 and I ate every bit of it.