Brooklyn Underground Chili Extravaganza at Barcade

for The Brooklyn Paper
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Paul Kermizian has been putting on a chili-making competition for a decade — but the dish leaves a bitter taste in his mouth.

Kermizian, the owner of boozy Williamsburg video game parlour Barcade, competed in the bar’s annual “Brooklyn Underground Chili Extravaganza” in its inaugural 2004 contest. He won the eater’s choice award, but failed to take home the grand prize, and he has not entered his own competition since.

“I haven’t made chili since that first year because I really felt like I should have won,” Kermizian said. “So I vowed to never enter again.”

But the show went on without him, and it has grown every year since.

This year’s edition, taking place on March 2, will feature 12 contestants, whose chili will be assessed by a panel of six judges for flavor, aroma, heat, looks, originality, and on the crucial question, “Would you go back for seconds?”

There is only one rule governing what goes in the chili — “Chili comes in a pot, pot does not come in the chili.” But Kermizan insists that bylaw has been in place since the beginning, and was not inspired by actual experience.

“That was one of the first rules in the first year,” he said. “We wanted to make sure from the beginning that there wouldn’t be any funny business, so it was a little preemptive I guess.”

The competing cooks have nevertheless taken plenty of creative license with ingredients in the 10-year history of the event.

“We’ve definitely had some pretty wild chilis over the years,” Kermizan said, describing beany bowls stuffed with seafood and even alligator. Back in 2004, Kermizian’s losing masterpiece involved a heavy dose of Sierra Nevada Bigfoot Barleywine.

“So it was really boozy, and had this really nice, hoppy flavor,” the defeated chili-cooker said.

The beer at this year’s Extravaganza will not just be flowing inside the crock pots. Brews from event sponsors — such as borough favorites Brooklyn Brewery, Coney Island, Kelso, and Sixpoint — will be available for $5. And of course, all the chilis will be available for sampling, too.

“Brooklyn Underground Chili Extravaganza” at Barcade [388 Union Ave. near Metropolitan Ave. in Williamsburg, (718) 302–6464,]. March 2 at 4–7 pm, $10.

Updated 10:17 pm, July 9, 2018
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