2009 Vegan Chili Rumble

Chili Awards

So, you think you have what it takes to complete the Vegan Chili Rumble?  You think your gizzards can handle the gut-grinding, seam-bursting effects of TWENTY FIVE different lightning bolts of pure chili?  If so, then maybe you have what it takes – to enter the Chili Rumble Hall of Fame.

On May 30th, about a hundred and thirty of Cleveland, Ohio’s best eaters descended upon 1387 East Boulevard for the 2009 Vegan Chili Rumble, organized by my roommate Nina Sarnelle. If you convert that attendance (per-capita) into New York City numbers, that would be 2,935 people.

Eat Up!

Sure, that’s a lot of people, but we live in Cleveland so our $280/month apartment comes with a bountiful 2-acre garden, all thanks to my landlady Julie Patton – shown here with Ryan, who manages a fancy Brazilian restaurant called Sergios. His Chili was Brazillian and featured tanning lotion and tiny swim suits.

Julie and Ryan

Ryan and the other contestants brought their best crock of chili to be voted upon by a panel of Cleveland’s most discerning gourmets.

One of those gourmets was none other than Katherine Koenig, host of the Maximum Consumption radio show on WRUW, shown here with John G (famed local illustrator), and a tiny version of myself that I keep around as a decoy for mosquitos.

The chilis were all soooo good, it was hard to give any of them less than five spoons during the voting. Here is a woman named Tofu Cat and her Black Bean Chili. I gave it five spoons. Other chilis featured white beans, pinto beans, adzuki, great northern, black-eyed peas, and of course kidney beans.

Tofu Cat

This is Jennifer and Earl and Linda, and it looks like they’re feeding the sage bush, which is crazy because I just fed it a few days ago and it’s not supposed to eat that much chili.

And this is Judy. I’m putting her picture up because I keep forgetting her name, and putting her picture on New York’s most famous blog will help me remember that her name is JUDY. See, I already remembered!

Eventually the votes were tabulated, and Divya’s curry-flavored “Rajma Chili” took home the 1st place trophy (see recipe).  She is from Chennai (formerly “Madras”), India, and came to Cleveland years ago with no idea that her D-E-S-T-I-N-Y was to win this competition.

That’s Nina in the red dress, she really did a great job of organizing this party, don’t you think so too? Of course you do! Feel free to move to Cleveland now, it’s really cheap and if you’re really lucky you can be roommates with Nina Sarnelle. My name is Ian Charnas, look me up when you move here and I will be your friend. Thank you and goodbye.



  1. Super sad, just moved to Cleveland from Virginia on the first of June. Super sad I missed this. What are some other awesome things to do in cleveland?


  2. You are hilarious, Ian. Also, this was a deluge of deliciousness. Chili love.

    Also, Ian is correct – Cle is cheap and awesome. Yes, it’s true.

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