Chili winners decided in three-way taste off

By Tamara Steiner on March 11, 2013

To bean or not to bean … that was the question on the minds of 18 local chili chefs as they prepared for the Clayton Club Saloon’s 12th Annual Chili Contest.

This year’s event, held on Sunday, Mar. 3, seemed to top all others, said Clayton Club owner, Steve Barton. The crowd was bigger, the day sunnier and the judges hungrier. And a dramatic, double taste off for second and third place proved that the chili was the best ever.

The 18 chili pots that lined the walls of the 140-year-old saloon, represented every kind of chili on the spectrum. The only rule was “no canned chili,” said Barton.

Some chilis were sans beans and thick enough to hold the spoon upright, others were “saucier.” Some were made with beef, some with venison and some with a combination of meats. Some were mild and some were not.

“I don’t think I’ll taste anything I’m eating for a week,” said Clayton Councilman and veteran judge Howard Geller. Geller has judged the contest almost every year.

Taking home the blue ribbon and $300 for her non-traditional chili made with turkey and chicken sausage was Clayton Club bartender Naomi Orcutt. Orcutt has entered the last three years but never expected to win.

Orcutt doesn’t really follow a recipe, she said. “I just keep cooking until it tastes good.”

Second place winner Scott Clarenbach grabbed $200 and bragging rights over his mom who also competed.

His win was closely contested by Bob Coonradt of Concord who was one of the three chilis in the double taste off for second and third place. Coonradt, a professional caterer won $200 and plans to be back again next year.

As eager as the cooks were to cross the finish line, their enthusiasm was matched by the spectators who had been waiting all morning for a chance to judge for themselves. As expected, the winning pots were emptied first, but, with 18 entries, there was plenty of chili for everyone. Well, make that 17, since one contestant must have had other plans for his pot of chili. It disappeared from the table as soon as third place was announced.

The Clayton Club Saloon on Main Street is Clayton’s oldest continually operating business. For a calendar of events, go to

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