Comfort Texas, 1976

First Annual Comfort Texas Chili Extravaganza

I’ve worked with a cast of characters throughout my career and the list just keeps growing. There’s no shortage of characters in the kitchen. Everyone has a very unique story and path that led them to cook for a living.

I could write a whole book on the interesting, talented, passionate and sometimes crazy people I’ve had the pleasure of working with, but one person really sticks out, and that would be Chef Larry Bowen.

Larry and I worked together for several years in the 1980’s. He was trained in the disciplines of classic French cuisine and had adapted it into his own style of cooking. It was early in my career and I was a sponge, just soaking up information. He provided me with some of the greatest learning opportunities I’ve ever had.

When you work side by side with someone you really get to know their background. Most people in the kitchen are tremendous storytellers. I mean, when you have 10 hours of prep work to do in a blazing hot kitchen it helps take your mind off the physical part of the job, you find ways to block it out.

I could tell you some crazy stories we shared, such as how he bought a live suckling pig on St. Patrick’s Day and then proceeded to dye it green so he could take it bar hopping with him….Hint - everyone buys you drinks if you have a green pig on St. Pat’s Day.

Of course, there’s the story about the 100 year old stuffed cat that he bought in an antique store for $500.00. It was formerly part of some sort of religious shrine. This cat truly had nine lives….no time to dive into this story, maybe later.

The list goes on, cooks falling out of second story windows, practical techniques on how to make a car fly, how we discovered you could cool yourself down by funneling clam juice through a box fan, etc. These are the times of self discovery.

Creative people have some pretty crazy ideas and some of those ideas actually get executed, like this cooking escapade in Comfort Texas, 1976.

My buddy decides to hold the First Annual Comfort Texas Chili Extravaganza. It starts with making the world’s largest pot of chili, but it didn’t end there, from great minds come great ideas on what to do with that much chili. Larry set up a 150 foot long “Chili Slip-n-Slide” and then arranged for parachutists to attempt to land in wash tubs of chili.

Here’s a Q&A session with Larry about this historic and inaugural event:

Q – “Larry, is that your car in the background of the picture?”

A – “No that was not my car. I had a brand new beat up 1975 orange Dodge pickup truck with no tailgate, and more whiskey dents than I care to remember. I also had a CB radio in order to impersonate rednecks while on the road, for amusement purposes. My handle was the crawdad king. "This here is the crawdad king good buddy, what's your 10-20?"

Q – “How in the world do you cook that much chili and where did the heat come from?”

A – “Wood fire my friend and we stirred it with garden hoes. Chili hoers, if you will. I stayed up all night and made sure we had enough to spread all the way down the 150 ft slip and slide the next day. The pot was a 2,000 gallon trough rented from San Antonio Iron Works; I broke the Guinness record for about 3 months”

Q – “Why would anyone slide through 150 ft. of chili?”

A – “The prize for fastest time going down the slip 'n slide was a case of Pearl beer if I recall. Those were the days Danno. Yes sireee. Good times. They are still having that annual cookoff in Comfort. Mine was #1”.

Q – “Tell me about the picture, and who is the lady standing next to you?”

A – “That is me on my 11 acre ranch cooking the World's Largest Pot of Chili. Ya think I might have had a few beers coming up with this activity... That was my mom helping me stir for the photo op who flew in from California to see me; she broke down in tears after a time as I think the Mariachis, the Parachutists trying to land in a #3 washtub of chili from 7,500 feet, the 150 ft Chili Slip and Slide, the World record Cow chip throwers, Hondo Crouch of Luckenbach fame and about 5,000 drunk revelers took her over the edge. What has become of this child of mine I am sure she thought. And that is the way it was. A legend in my own mind.”