From tent to tent, each simmering pot of chili proved unique -- from its spicy scent to its highly guarded ingredients.
Some concoctions boasted several kinds of meat, while others were infused with special homegrown peppers, pumpkin or beer. All were potent, which is little surprise, because firefighters were the chefs.
At the second annual Big Chili Cook-Off Saturday in West Sayville, in which 10 Suffolk County fire departments and one fire marshal's office competed, Bayport was crowned the judges' favorite. Kings Park won the "people's choice" award.
The daylong event at the West Sayville Fire Department was a fundraiser for the planned Islip Town Firefighters Museum and Education Center, slated for a site in Central Islip across from Bethpage Ballpark.
Bayport firefighter Tucker Farrell said his department's chili was cooked that morning, featuring a mix that's tasty but requires digestive fortitude: beef, pork, bacon and hot dogs, three kinds of beans and ranch dressing.
"When we all come back from an alarm and have something to eat, chili is the basics of that," Farrell said.
"Not only that, but it can sit around for a long time and still taste great," said Kevin Collins, another Bayport volunteer.
In Kings Park's tent, Loretta DeStefano and Andree Fagan described their chili as "traditional . . . with a lot of twists." By that they meant dashes of nutmeg and splashes of pumpkin beer and merlot.
Ray Cooney, a retired FDNY firefighter who hosts the "Firehouse Kitchen" TV show, emceed the cook-off.
Yesterday's event raised about $4,000, organizers said.
Erik Challenger, one of the chefs behind the Central Islip Fire Department's offering, said it features five meats and seven spices.
"It's not a one-person chili," Challenger said. "The whole department had their hands in our chili."
Not literally, he quickly added.