Denton’s Springtime weather may be kooky and unpredictable, but one thing you can always count on are the offbeat sights and wacky underground events that keep our weekend social calendars full of choices that’d fluster even wise ole Solomon. One of these backyard traditions is the legendary QUEST FOR THE GOLDEN JESUS Chili Cookoff, which ain’t too underground anymore but for years was held at various “undisclosed locations” back in the day. Here’s an unedited look at the history of this Holy Spirited Hootenanny that we shared with We Denton Do It.
You’d be forgiven if you ain’t ever attended much less heard of Denton’s Quest for the Golden Jesus Chili Cookoff since, even though it’s celebrating it’s 13th anniversary over Memorial Day weekend, it pretty much started as a backyard bet for bragging rights. Founded by Dentonite chili-hound Wallace “Wally” Campbell in 2004, there’s a lotta lore and typical Texas tall tales about how he managed to win that first friends-only contest between 6 teams, which may or may not have started as a drunken bet and devolved into the theft of a urine-soaked yard gnome… so we don’t wanna run afoul of anyone to speculate as to it’s particulars.
What we do know for sure, though, is the crowds have grown and so has the competition, even if you might not know it by their Facebook list of the past winner’s circle. According to their FaBo page, “Quest for the Golden Jesus has evolved into Denton’s premier chili cook-off/day drinking event,” which is durn sure beyond dispute. The top award is the much-coveted Golden Jesus, with second place winning The Silver Spoon and third place takes home a not-quite-Bronze Ladle. What you might notice here, tho, is that Aaron “Harlin” Anderson is the reigning champion to beat with a whoppin’ five wins out of QFGJ’s 12 year history. [And as Harlin notes on the WDDI post: “No mention of a Meat Guns victory would be complete without including the great Ashley Bender. I dare say she’s had as much, or more, to do with any of our victories than Isaac and myself. She is a chili wunderkind. We don’t take home five Golden Jesuses without her.”]
THE GOLDEN JESUS HALL OF CHAMPIONS
2015: Andy & Nic
2014: Team SoBo
2013: Harlan “Meatguns” Anderson and Isaac Hoskins
2012 winner: Team Larry
2011 Team Jackson
2010 Aaron “Harlin” Anderson
2009 Aaron “Harlin” Anderson
2008 Aaron “Harlin” Anderson
2007 Team Jackson
2006 Aaron “Harlin” Anderson
2005 Peter Farmer/J.P. Hossley
2004 Wally “Sir Wallace” Campbell
While the winner’s circle may look to be suspiciously small at first glance, fact is that the judges tapped to select the champion have become increasingly diverse in the blind taste-test showdown. Local #Dentoning expert Scott Campbell chronicled Anderson’s return to the winner’s circle after a two-year absence in 2013, when 16 upstart challengers were judged by the likes of local foodie blogger Alyssa “The Pink Antler” and Denton City Councilman Kevin “The Smoke-Fighter” Roden. While local favorites Hares On The Mountain serenaded the festive QFGJ chilipalooza of taste samplers and day-drinking dancers, local noise ordinance violations were purportedly dodged with well-placed bribes of homebrew beer and chilidogs.
2014 turned out to be yet another free-for-all contest, with hosting Team SoBo eventually pulling off a narrow upset. Threat of rain did little to dampen spirits and shenanigans, MC’d by our WDDI Godfather Glen Farris. Local brewers offered tastings as bawdy trashtalk between the tents flowed freely. The chili innovations presented ranged from boldly fruity to cocoa-enhanced meaty fare, but a vegetarian gambit has been introduced because… heck, its Denton! As the 2014 video posted below amply documents, the Memorial Weekend event has become legend for durn good reasons… and it barely mostly has to do with the chili.
The 2014 QFGJ Cookoff footage, complete with drunken weather reviews and a rainbow finale that almost makes up for you not being able to taste the sublime chili offerings. Okay, no it doesn’t…
The 2015 contest had to be relocated due to rain and flooding, but the 2016 Quest For The Golden Jesus Chili Cookoff returned to the SoBo Compound with entertainment courtesy of the The Nice Up Crew. The soirée is BYOB and some Mylanta to insure the only thing you don’t feel the next day is pangs of regret for missing it!! Be sure to bring your dancing shoes and a few bucks to throw-in for their port-a-potty “Kicksharter” campaign, and tag your pics with #WDDI and #GoldenJesusChiliCookoff to document the mayhem you witness or incite.
My pal Emily also penned a lovely photo-essay of the 2016 Golden Jesus showdown that is also worth a gander. As she reports: “Team 42 headed by Bradley Franklin Santulli—who has participated and cooked for years—won the precious Golden Jesus trophy. Team Chili Nelson took second place for the second year in a row, and Beastmaster won third place.”
You can also check out a slideshow that was included in the WDDI “What We Did” weekly events review.
Copyright © 2016 Shaun Treat. All Rights Reserved.