Colleen Lintner joined an elite circle at this year’s Lenexa Chili Challenge when for the second time she claimed first place in the Chili Appreciation Society International division.
Only two other cooks hold repeat Lenexa titles in the prestigious CASI division, which allows only meat with chili peppers and spices — no beans or spaghetti. Larry Velasquez of Mission won in 2010 and 2011, and Jerri Dowdy of Kansas City took first place in 2006 and 2009. Velasquez placed ninth this year and Dowdy didn’t enter.
“I was shocked when my number was announced as the CASI winner,” Lintner said of her win on Saturday. “My chili just didn’t taste right to me. I used the same recipe I always do but it didn’t do anything for my taste buds. Fortunately, it must have pleased the judges.”
Lintner, competing as the one-person Toad Chokin’ Chili team, won her first CASI division in 2003. That was followed by second place in 2005 and fifth place in 2006. She also won first place in the Homestyle category at the Lenexa Chili Challenge in 2006.
“It would have been nice to win both divisions the same year but I guess that’s hoping for too much,” she said.
Lintner, who lives in Shawnee, attributes her success to experience, a little skill and luck. “A lot of luck,” she added.
No doubt she has the experience. She’s competed for more than 15 years in the Lenexa contest and her skill is reflected in her triumphs. “The luck you can’t control, just hope you have some,” Lintner said.
After helping on a friend’s team for five years, she and her husband, Rudy, formed the Toad Chokin’ Chili team in 2000. “The Toad name came from the nickname my older brother hung on me when I was growing up. A few years later Rudy started his own team, Dudes Dump, and we became friendly competitors,” she said.
“We’ve always had such a good time at the Chili Challenge we decided to double our fun with two teams. We’ve made many friends over the years. It’s our favorite contest,” she said.
Jon Niederbremer of Prairie Village and his Jon Russell BBQ team won first place in the Homestyle category. “It’s my best win in the 23 years I’ve been competing at the Challenge. I could hardly catch my breath when they called my number for first place,” he said.
The team — which includes Russell Muehlberger, Niederbremer’s partner at Jon Russell BBQ at 135th Street and Quivira Road — won first place for hot wings in 2011.
The first place winners in CASI and Homestyle divisions receive $200 gift certificates, plaques and ribbons. Second place brings a $125 gift certificate, third a $50 certificate. First place winners in the other categories receive a $50 gift certificate, second $20 and third $10.
Scott Povlick of Overland Park and his Hot Heads team took first place in Hot Wings. “This is just our second year at the Challenge. Last year we didn’t place so I guess we learned from our mistakes. I hope it carries over next year.”
David Capps of Lenexa and his Chili Joint team came on strong this year, winning first place in Showmanship after finishing second last year. “We had talked about entering the Chili Challenge for several years but last year was our first time so we’re feeling pretty good,” Capps said.
“Our theme this year was ‘Make chili, not war’ and we played a lot of 70s music. People seemed to like our chili. They kept coming back until it was all gone so we thought that was a good sign,” he said.
Stan Phelps of Gardner and his 50 Shades of Chili team won the Salsa category and took sixth in Homestyle. “Actually, my partner, Nick Schmalz, who lives in Overland Park, did most of the work on the Salsa and I worked the Homestyle,” Phelps said. “We’ve been competing about 10 years and we usually place in some category.”
Greg Heuer of Excelsior Springs and his Moe Dangie Hillbilly Chili team, placed first in the fund-raising category by raising $2,710 for the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation, said Lindsay Hart, superintendent of recreation for the Lenexa Parks and Recreation Department.
“The cold rain cut down the crowd for the Friday night’s entertainment with The Shanks Band but Saturday’s unusually large crowd made up for it,” Hart said.