S4:E6 | 5.14.2020

Cheater Cheater Chili Eater

At a Chili Cook-off Championship, Don Eastep turned in a cup of chili to the judges filled with samples of everyone else’s chili mixed together. And then, he won first place.

About this Episode

For competitive chili cooks, the ultimate accomplishment is taking home first prize at the Original Terlingua International Frank X. Tolbert-Wick Fowler Memorial Championship Chili Cook-off. The Terlingua chili cooks are a tight-knit group. And in 2003, they were suspicious of newcomer Don Eastep. And it turns out, they were right to be. Because Don didn’t cook chili at that cook-off. Instead, he turned in a cup of chili to the judges, filled with samples of everyone else’s chili mixed together. And then, he won first place. The 2003 Terlingua Cook-off would go down as the most scandalous event in the history of chili cooking. After the chili cheater was revealed, Don was banned from Terlingua, the Eastep family name was scorched, and the chili-cooking community was forced to answer the question: Can the ultimate chili crime be forgiven?

About the Reporter

Maya Kroth is a writer and radio reporter based in Atlanta, GA. She has reported on a variety of international topics ranging from Honduran economic reforms to puppetry in Barcelona for outlets including Foreign Policy, the Washington Post, New York, the Christian Science Monitor and PRI's the World. Listen to Maya's other Proof stories about Jamon Iberico made in Georgia, Mexican wine, and the history of celery.

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