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The Micrografx chili cook-off.

Arguably the most interesting event at Fall Comdex has nothing to do with technology, computer dealers, or visionary keynote speeches. Comdex's hottest (sic) moment is rather the annual Micrografx Chili Cook-Off, a giant benefit party that packs the University of Nevada's sports arena with thousands of guests, eager to taste more than 40 different varieties of chili, rub shoulders with industry celebrities, and watch armadillo races. (Speaking of armadillos, we'll be dishing out our own legendary Armadillo Road Kill Chili again; be sure to drop by for a sample.)

We asked Micrografx chairman Paul Grayson some behind-the-scenes questions about the contest:

Has this event become the world's biggest chili cook-off?

"No, the biggest is probably the International Chili Society's World Championship. But the Micrografx Chili Cook-Off is the largest private event sponsored by the computer industry. Last year, we had more than 40 sponsoring companies and more than 9,000 attendees. We served 700 gallons of chili, along with 250 pounds of tortilia chips, 250 pounds of shredded cheese, and 250 gallons of salsa."

How did a little graphics software congoany end up running the single biggest party at Comdex?

"Serendipity. The Chili Cook-Off began as a small, private 'Texas Barbecue' for about 500 people in 1986. Our guests kept asking us how we were going to make next year bigger and better. You can see what happens after seven years of Comdex events. We were also able to add meaning to the event in 1991 when we began raising funds for the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Without the cause, I think we would have stayed small or gone on to something else."

How well has the Cook-Off worked as a fund-raising event?

"Since 1991, the Micrografx Chili Cook-Off has been the largest source of private funding for the NCMEC. A total of over $500,000 in cash has been contributed in the last two years, plus direct in-kind contributions of technology, hardware and software. This year, we hope to raise even more and are trying hard to get as close to $500,000 as possible."

What's the weirdest chili recipe that's ever been submitted?

"Without a doubt, I'd say that Jonathan Sacks (who was editor of InfoWorld at the time and now is at Ziff) submitted the weirdest recipe, 'California Tofu' chili. We should have known better, but we were new to chili cook-offs and let him go ahead. It was so bad that he added about a quart of Tequila to the recipe on the spot. By the way, Jonathan has the dubious honor of being the only chef permanently barred from future participation due to his recipe."

Is it true that columnist John Dvorak uses dog food as an ingredient in his chili?

"Micrografx screens all chili recipes very carefully (especially after our 'California Tofu' experience) for foreign or otherwise unhealthy objects or ingredients. There were rumors that John was seen with a case of Mighty Dog at the 1991 event, but the rumors were never confirmed. One source reported that John always brings dog food to Comdex to avoid the food at the casinos."

J. Paul Grayson, chairman, Micrografx, 1303 E. Arapaho Rd., Richardson, Texas 75081; 214/234-1769.
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Copyright 1993, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Publication:Soft-Letter
Date:Sep 30, 1993
Words:535
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