The biology department and Beta Beta Beta (Tri-Beta), the biology honor society, co-organized a chili competition on Feb. 7 to commemorate the work of Charles Darwin, who was a prominent scientist in the field of biology. Darwin published “On the Origin of Species,” which proposed the theory of evolution. Dr. Kam Dahlquist, a professor of biology and faculty advisor for Tri-Beta, gave a thorough explanation of Darwin and his achievements in biology.
“The way that science was done back when he was alive was so different than the way science is done today,” said Dahlquist. “You could call him a scientist, you could call him an adventurer [or] you could call him an explorer.” Dahlquist calls Darwin “foundational to the discipline [of biology].”
But what does chili have to do with Darwin? Mikaela Karin Ribi, a senior biochemistry major and president of Tri-Beta, talked about their relationship. Darwin helped inspire the theory of natural selection, which states that having more diversity is better for a species and its survival. “Chili is extremely diverse because there are so many components [to the recipe],” said Ribi.
The competition established three categories for the process of voting, “a meat category called carnivores, a vegetarian category called vegetarians and a best overall category called omnivores.” By making it a competition and voting for the best chili, the contest mimicked natural selection.
One of the chili tasters was David Ramirez, a junior biology major and a member of Tri-Beta. He found out about the event from the flyers that were posted in the Life Sciences Building. He said it was “[his] first chili cook-off and that [he hasn’t] tried chili in a long time,” so he really enjoyed getting to taste it again.
Although it’s been a while, Ramirez has strict standards for his chili. He first looked for thickness, then checked how much meat was inside, and finally he said, “I evaluate the other ingredients such as vegetables and corn that help increase the taste of the chili.”
Ramirez described some features of the top two chilis he voted for. He tried all three carnivore chilis, and out of all of them he enjoyed number three the most. He appreciated the “chunkiness and quantity of the meat” used in the chili and gave it one vote. However, in the omnivore category (overall) and vegetarian category, he voted for number six twice because he thought the “thickness and texture” of the vegetables were just right.
Votes by the student chili tasters determined the winner, and the competition ended with a surprise.
According to Dahlquist, all the chili was made by the biology faculty, except for one that was made by a math faculty member. “Sometimes students make it but it’s difficult to cook in the dorms, so students are generally tasters,” she said.
At the end of the competition, the same person won all three categories. The winner was Cathy McElwain, an emerita faculty who has retired from LMU but returned to enjoy the event. She received a saucepan trophy with a plaque inside engraved “Best Chili of the Year Award.” The Darwin Day Chili Cook-Off is an annual Tri-Beta tradition and there’s no telling who might win it next.