Chili is in Dana Plocheck's blood ... she met her husband at a chili cook-off event and their honeymoon was attending a Terlingua International Chili Championship. It's the grand-daddy of all chili cook-offs which has been held for 40 years in the west Texas ghost town of Terlingua. This year Plocheck was named champion.
"The name of my chili is Lady Bug Chili. My mother and I gave out little charms one year at the Lady State Cook-off. They were little lady bugs for good luck so that's why I call mine Lady Bug Chili."
It's been a good run for Plocheck. She's been using the same basic recipe for about six years now and has won first place seven times in the last year and a half. Plocheck does have some slight variations depending on the weather and what part of the state she is cooking.
"When it's hot in the summertime you maybe will look at making your chili a little bit more salty because you think the judges that may be what they are looking for. Sometimes you just have to kind of find, you may be get used to an area that you've cooked at several times, you know that area may like it hot or spicier than another area. But I just tend to cook the same recipe hoping that that day the judges are really going to like my chili."
Houston fared well at Terlingua this year ... two other Houstonians placed in the top ten. Terlingua is an invitation only event for cooks.
"To qualify you go to all the cook-offs that are held all over and if you place in the top ten you earn points and for the state of Texas you have to have 12 points to cook in Terlingua."
The Chili New Year has already begun. Cooks start earning their points in October with local chili cook-offs for the next Terlingua event. Terlingua and other chili cook offs are charity events. Judges come from the public. Plocheck may be a second generation chili cooker, but she encourages others to give it a try.
"You can find some past champion recipes to kind of get an idea of what they may be looking for. You just cook like, we just cook two pounds of meat, that's enough to get a little pot going and turn in. So you don't have to go to a big expense and yet you can still come out and have a good time. And you'll find other cooks if you come out and meet new friends, they'll start helping you to develop your recipe so you too can be a winner at Terlingua."
You can begin your search at KUHF dot org. Capella Tucker, Houston Public Radio News.