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What makes a pot of winning chili?

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CNY/NNY/S. Tier: What makes a pot of winning chili?
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Winterfest in Syracuse is wrapping up this weekend and the festival wouldn't be complete without the annual Chili Cook Off. About a dozen teams diced, simmered and cooked their way through the competition, but only two teams took home awards for the best chili. Our Cara Thomas spoke with some of the teams about what they think it takes to create a winning chili.

SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- Every pot of chili is as unique as the chef who cooks it.

"We've got sausage, beef, pulled pork in the mix along with a bunch of BBQ sauces," said Aaron Fried from team ‘Downhome BBQ.’

"Smokey, a little spicy at the end, gives a little kick at the end," said Keith Stegmaier with team ‘Up in Smoke Chili.’

"More of a traditional homestyle chili, nothing too spicy, too hot, just traditional," said Mike Mahar from the team representing the 'Syracuse Suds Factory.’

And perfecting flavors like these isn't easy. Cooks said it has taken years of trial and error to master.

"People ask, when I make my chili they ask, ‘What's your secret?’ And my secret is, I wanted to make good chili so I made 100 batches of chili until I got something that was really good," said Fried.

So, local businesses and groups are putting their recipes to the test. On Saturday, Winterfest hosted the infamous Chili Cook Off. But this year's event was a bit different.

"When I first started doing it there was 50 or more people here doing it and it's gotten a lot smaller. When the years go on, I'm not quite sure why," said Patty Sheridan also from the team representing 'Syracuse Suds Factory.’

"Usually there's probably twice as many teams out here. And usually, you just smell chili coming from everywhere," said Stegmaier.

But the gloomy weather and lack of people didn't get these cooks down. For them, it was just less competition in the way of winning the cash prize, plague, and bragging rights for being the best chili around.

"I think my chili is the best chili so that's why we're here," said Fried.

That decision ultimately came down to a handful of judges and the hungry passersby. Judging on appearance, taste and texture, judges say they're favorite serving came from team 'Pontoon Chili,’ while the public favored another.

"People's choice goes to DJ's INN," announced an event organizer.

But no matter the final decisions, the real winners were those in the crowd who enjoyed every last drop of chili left in the pots.

Winterfest festivities wrap up Sunday, with events including the popular chowder cook-off in Hanover Square. ClientIP:, UserAgent: CCBot/2.0 ( Profile: TWCSAMLSP