And the winner is… Primarily Primates’ veggie chili is the People’s Choice
By Nicole Rivard
Austin, Texas—The chili team from Primarily Primates won the People’s Choice Award at the 25th annual Lone Star Veggie Chili Championship in Austin on Sunday as well as the Best Booth for its rainforest theme.
This year, an estimated 1,500 people came to the Lone Star Veggie Chili Championship to taste healthy, meatless chilies, cooked on-site by approximately 30 teams from the state of Texas as well as beyond the Lone Star State.
Primarily Primates is a non-profit sanctuary in San Antonio, Texas run by Friends of Animals and houses, protects and rehabilitates various non-native animals, focusing primarily on caring for apes and monkeys, many of them cast-offs from the pet trade and biomedical research institutions.
“In years past, because of the location of the Chili Championship, most people who came were vegetarians or vegans,” said Brooke Chavez, animal enrichment coordinator at Primarily Primates. “This year’s event was held in a plaza with Whole Foods and other businesses so you had customers walking over just to see what was going on. So a good half of them were meat eaters.”
Chavez pointed out that a gentleman in cowboy boots and a cowboy hat came up to the booth to taste the chili and couldn’t believe it didn’t have meat in it. “He said, ‘You could put this in front of any cowboy and he’s not going to even know the difference.’ And that’s what the whole point of this is,” Chavez said. “If we want people to go vegan we want to let them know you don’t have to sacrifice taste. You can have meat substitutes that are wonderful.”
While Chavez would not reveal her championship recipe, which she learned from her grandparents as a child, she said the meat substitute in the recipe is Gardein Beefless Strips that she browned with garlic and then ground up.
During the event visitors moved from team to team, tasting and judging the chilies for themselves to determine the People’s Choice award of $200, while a group of judges, many of them Austin and Texas celebrities and personalities, judged the four winners of Best Chili in two divisions. Among the judges were chef and vegan magazine editor Jason Wyrick (Vegan Culinary Experience); Brandi Clarke Burton, founder of the Austin EcoNetwork; and Greg Lawson, vice-president of the Vegetarian Society of El Paso.
The “All Veg” division was for chilies made with only vegetables, while the “Traditional” division was for chilies that contain a meat analog or substitute like seitan or tempeh. Second place in each division received $150, first prize in each division received $250.
A portion of the Chili Championship proceeds is donated to two animal advocacy organizations, Compassion Over Killing, which has worked to end animal abuse since 1995, and the Texas Humane Legislation Network, the voice for animals in the Texas legislature.
Chavez said the chili team is going to put its winnings toward the sanctuary’s new PrimaDome© that is under construction. The 25-foot high habitat for chimpanzees will enhance animal enrichment at the sanctuary because it will be filled with cargo ropes, vertical logs and other structures to encourage climbing and other activities.
Chavez said the chili team continued to celebrate winning People’s Choice with the chimpanzees Monday by serving them some of the award-winning chili.
The Veggie Chili Championship began in 1989 when the late Shirley Wilkes-Johnson brought together the leaders of Texas’ vegetarian societies to form the Lone Star Vegetarian Network and create an event to promote veganism to the public.
The goals of the Lone Star Veggie Chili Championship are first, to have fun and entertain everyone, and second to show everybody by example that “regular” foods can be just as tasty when they’re prepared vegetarian. By demonstrating that chili, the state dish of Texas, can be made vegan and delicious, the event continues to help people learn that food can taste great without using animal products.
For information about the Chili Championship, visit www.veggiechilicookoff.com. To learn more about Primarily Primates and Friends of Animals, visit www.primarilyprimates.org.