Deputy District Attorney turns award-winning chili cook

Sean Kensinger and his chili cooking team at the World Food Championships in Alabama

Local 856 members work day in and day out in a wide variety of industries and professions. But when they go home, many are also avid runners, readers, Little League coaches, bikers, poker players, yoga enthusiasts, cyclists, and in some cases — award-winning cooks.

Sean Kensinger is a dedicated Teamster shop steward and a Deputy District Attorney in Marin County.

“I come from a background of law enforcement, and in law school I took to trial work,” said Sean of his decision to work in the District Attorney’s office. “As prosecutors, our job isn’t to win, but to do the right thing.”

Sean putting the finishing touches on his chili at the World Food Championships

Late last year, Sean turned a chili cooking hobby he shares with friends into a coveted spot in the 2017 World Food Championships (WFC).

The WFC is the largest food sport competition in the world with over 1500 contestants on 449 teams. Competitors are champions in other events around the United States, as well as 13 other countries. They all convene annually in Alabama to compete for hundreds of thousands of dollars in prize money, and some even become culinary TV stars.

Sean became interested in chili cooking competitions after years of attending the Great Petaluma Chili Cook-Off, Salsa, and Beer Tasting. The competition is a fundraiser for Petaluma’s CinnaBar Theater’s Young Rep program.

Sean says entering the competition started as an excuse for he and his friends, turned chili partners, to get together. The team, which includes a carpenter, an engineer, a teacher, and Sean first entered their Samuel Heights Lowbrow Chili three years ago.

The team created a recipe that is 60 percent smoked chuck and 40 percent smoked rib. Theirs is a hearty smoked chili that includes brewed coffee, chipotle peppers, and Ghirardelli chocolate.

“We worked to develop a recipe,” said Sean. “One guy had something he liked to make and we went from there. We won the judges choice for individual chili on our first try.”

The next year, Sean and his team won second place, and then in 2017, they went home with all the awards. “We won people’s choice, judges’ choice, and grand champion,” said Sean. “Our prize included an invitation to the World Food Championship in Orange Beach, Alabama.”

An invitation to the WFC is a coveted prize for chef’s around the world.  The competition includes multiple categories such as barbecue, burgers, seafood, and of course, chili. Sean and his team decided it was likely a once and a lifetime experience, so they raised the money and headed down south to compete. And while they are proud of their delicious chili, they did not take home the top prize this time. “We did well, but we were outclassed” said Sean. “We had fun putting together our chili and had a great time, but we did not place well.”

What’s next for Sean and his chili?

“I think we’re going to dial it back and probably not take the chili out on the road anymore,” said Sean. “But maybe we’ll branch out and find something different.”