A heated debate turned into heated treats for members of the Army Contracting Command and Expeditionary Contracting Command headquarters at FortBelvoir, Va., as it held its first ever Chili Championship Challenge.

According to Michael Holcomb, ACC Secretary to the General Staff and event coordinator, after some conversations at the water cooler it was decided that a chili cook off would be a fun competition and a great way to bring people together.

"It was a huge success," said Holcomb, who entered his chili in the contest. "Everyone raved about it and they want us to do it again. We might take advantage of the cold weather again as chili is a great comfort food."

Eleven participants accepted the challenge to tempt the taste buds of their co-workers. Prior to employees feasting on the Texan/Mexican delicacy, Melissa Rider, Lt. Col. (Chaplain) Carol D. Highsmith and Gregory Youmans served as judges.

Entries were evaluated on numerous factors including appearance, texture, aroma and heat. In the end it boiled, or stewed if you preferred, down to three finalists.

Michael L. Benavides, chief, Field Support Division, Contract Operations Directorate, ACC;
Barbara J. Trujillo, chief, Contracting Policy Division, ACC; and Col. (P) Joseph L. Bass, commander, Expeditionary Contracting Command, simmered to the top.

Benavides said his Texas Three Bean Chili typically takes 30 minutes to prepare, roughly one hour to
cook fully, and seasons overnight. The recipe is the result of a 20-year collaboration with his wife.

"With one more year of marriage added to the recipe, it might just be enough to push this chili to the next level," he said.

Trujillo's New Mexico style Green Chili Verde Con Carne is the result from time spent cooking in the kitchen with her mother.

"Nothing compares to New Mexico green chili," according to Trujillo. "This was not 'canned' green chili but fresh green chili hand-carried on a plane from New Mexico. I like to say it was "imported" from New Mexico."

Wirh an old family recipe from his mother and plenty of spices including cumin, oregano, cayenne pepper plus a couple of secret ingredients, Bass was confident in the performance of his Texas Chili with Beans.

"I think they were all good and it really depends on your taste
for the different chili styles," said Bass, whose chili takes one
hour to prepare and eight hours to cook.

When the smoke cleared, and the taste buds cooled off a bit,
the winner was announced.

"In her eyes it was unexpected for her to be the winner because she thought it was different," Holcomb said over Trujillo's victory.

"I participated in the contest just for fun," Trujillo said. "Winning the chili contest made me feel proud that New Mexico style chili was being honored."

One participant is already thinking on how to win the next chili cook off.

"I think next time I'll double the cayenne peppers," Bass said smiling.