Rain or Shine: 13th Annual Quest for the Golden Jesus

The 13th annual Quest for the Golden Jesus Chili Cook-Off was not hindered by a thunderstorm that doused the chili flames late Sunday afternoon. Yesterday’s event boasted 18 team entries - the biggest number of entries in the history of the event and concluded with a new, first time winner. 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.

Wally Campbell has organized the event since its inception. What began as a “friendly argument” about chili has grown into one of the most beloved events in a city where celebration is frequent, and the expectation of serious revelry is high. Throughout the years, the Golden Jesus trophy has been originally constructed with elements from Campbell’s garage, spray painted gold, re-designed and improved by Isaac Hoskins, and is desired by all who work to master their chili game throughout the year in preparation for Denton’s un-official/non-traditional/annual Memorial Day celebration. Etched under the bust of Jesus on the trophy is the motto of the event: “Jesus, that’s good chili.” 

Denton’s Nice Up Crew provided all the jams during the long day of bragging and cooking. The contest is a free-for-all, and first come/first put-your-canopy-here event. Campbell maintains two most important rules of the contest: all chili must be cooked on site, and all contestants must eat their own chili before submitting it for blind tasting. The latter rule was created after “someone” was observed adding old beer and cigarette butts to their “prized” chili years ago. Campbell states, beyond this reasonable public health stipulation, the world is one’s chili canvas. Campbell has witnessed the creation of Spam chili and has watched contenders add chocolate to chili as a “secret” ingredient. (Busted!)

 This years judges seemed pretty judge-y, we think. Photo courtesy of Marlee Ross.

This years judges seemed pretty judge-y, we think. Photo courtesy of Marlee Ross.

Chili cookers began jockeying for canopy space as early as 12:00 yesterday afternoon, cooking began at 1:00 pm, chili submission for judging occurred at 5:00 pm, and the winner was announced after the thunderstorm. A visibly-awestruck member of Team 42 collected the trophy from Aaron Anderson amidst a roar of applause and cheers.

Judging for the Quest for the Golden Jesus is a serious commitment, and Campbell has chosen an array of Denton favorites for such an important task. Past judges for Golden Jesus have included: City Council member Pete Kamp, musician Glen Farris, and local lovely Aubrey Mortensen. Yesterday’s judges included beloved Denton drummer Charlie Moore, Josh Berthume, Corbin Childs, and comely cocktail-conduit Marlee Ross. The chili is judged in five categories on a scale of 1-10, and yesterday’s winning chili placed within close range; Team 42 scored 39 out of a 50 point scale, and second and third placed scored 37 and 38 out of 50, respectively. This close score reveals the serious level of chili ethos prevalent in this quest for chili salvation.

As with all Denton events, what’s often more memorable than the finished project are the expressed affections by all revelers who love to spend time with like-minded homies in our hamlet of beer and chili. Yesterday’s contest included observations of walking toddlers, almost-crawling babies, hugs, slobbery kisses, lost koozies, and words of kindness among contestants while huddled together under a canopy in the rain. We are never too far from another future Denton event to remind us of how fortunate we are to live a close community of festive folk. The Quest for the Golden Jesus reinforces our shared love for each other, and our eternal quest for a happy life, rain or shine. Goal achieved. Thank you, Wally Campbell.