The smell simmering chili and an abundance of spices wafted into the lobby of the Cedar Rapids Marriott on Sunday, as eager contestants of the annual Blues 'n' Buffett Chili Challenge served up heaping spoonfuls of their tasty creations to hungry guests who were tasked with crowning their favorite.
The event was hosted by the Linn County Blues Society and The Isle of Iowa Parrothead Club and benefits H.D. Youth Center and the Community Free Health Clinic.
We asked five of the contestants to share their chili-making expertise. Here's what they said...
Phil Cummings, 52, of Center Point
Years of experience: "As long as I can remember."
Chili "X factor": "The brisket is smoked for 14 hours before we ever start the chili. It's not a quick process but the end result makes it all worthwhile."
Amy Anderson, 41, of Cedar Rapids
Years of experience: Anderson said she has been experimenting with recipes for "just a couple of years" but she's already developed her own unique recipe.
Chili "X factor": A "different" vegetarian chili. Using meat substitute and a variety of veggies, Anderson said she's managed to create a veggie chili that retains a traditional flavor.
Ben Sanders, 32, of Cedar Rapids
Years of experience: This is Sanders' sixth year entered in the challenge.
Chili "X factor": Every year Sanders makes a different "style" of chili. This year he decided to go with his "chili by the numbers."
Kim Galloway, 57, of Cedar Rapids
Years of experience: Galloway started getting involved in the competition by helping a friend in 2009. She then entered her own recipe in 2012 and said she has won an award every year since 2013.
Chili "X factor": Locally grown and grilled ingredients.
"Everything is grilled, the limes, the garlic, the peppers..."
Rich Lyle, 52, of Cedar Rapids
Years of experience: "I've been in this competition every year except for the first one and I've been making chili for maybe 30 or 35 years."
Chili "X factor": "I use pulled pork that I smoke and I always go for the spicy note."
As the last samples of chili were served, it was announced that Ruf Records Blues Caravan 2018, featuring Bernard Allison, Vanja Sky and Mike Zito will be a part of the lineup for the second annual Czech Village Blues Fest on Aug. 11. The concert is the signature event staged by the Linn County Blues Society.