Kansas Star Casino Chefs Win First-Place Awards at Chili Cook-off

Kansas Star Chefs James McNulty and John Bugg are known for their abilities to concoct savory chili, and the pair showed off their skills by taking home a first-place award during the annual Wichita Wagonmasters Downtown Chili Cook-Off.

The cook-off has been a Wichita tradition for 30 years with nearly 70 chefs from the region coming together each year for food, excitement and some friendly competition. The cook-off continues to set attendance records year after year, with 2016 attendance reaching more than 10,000 people. The participating chefs fed the hungry festival-goers during the annual event and competed in seven different chili categories.

Executive Chef McNulty and Sous Chef Bugg took the top spot in the “Anything Goes” category for their Smoked Brisket Chili. The chefs were awarded $500 for their victory, which they donated to the Team Member Crisis Fund.  

“We really enjoyed representing the Kansas Star Casino in a friendly competition that celebrates this internationally loved dish,” McNulty said. “We brought our best, and it worked.”

For the winning chili, McNulty carefully crafted a recipe based on his years of experience in the kitchen, which included an inventive mix of fresh peppers, toasted chilies, beer, beans, beef, tomatoes and a few additional ingredients. Both Texas natives, Bugg and McNulty worked collaboratively to bring the food enthusiasts a winning dish - the same chili they serve daily inside the Kansas Star kitchen.

Both chefs worked hard to improve on their results from last year’s contest, which saw them place fifth in the same category.

“It was an honor to take home first place in this competition and make the Kansas Star proud,” Bugg said. “It’s always fun to serve the community the delicious food we make, and we’re glad they’re able to enjoy it.”

“We get excited about the opportunity to collaborate and get involved with the community as representatives of the Kansas Star and Boyd Gaming,” McNulty said.

Smoked Brisket Chili

Yield: 2.5 gallons

Olive Oil                                        1 cup

Onions diced                                  1.5 cup

Red peppers diced                          1 cup

Green peppers diced                       1 cup

Chipotle peppers                             1 tbsp.

Roasted garlic (smashed)                ½  cup

Smoked brisket (cooked/ground)      2 lbs.

Tomatoes diced               1 lb.
Tomato sauce                  1 lb.
Chili sauce                      1 lb.
Kidney beans                   3 lbs.
Pinto beans                     3 lbs.
Cholula                           1 tbsp.
Worcestershire sauce      1tbsp.

Jim’s Secret Seasoning Mix

Kosher salt                     ½ cup

Black pepper                  1/8 cup

Sugar                             ½ cup

Montreal seasoning         1 cup

Garlic powder                  ¼ cup

Cumin                             ¼ cup

Onion powder                   ¼ cup

Chili powder                     1 Cup


Add oil to stock pot. Sauté onions until they start to caramelize. Add peppers and continue to cook. Add garlic and brisket and cook together to marry flavors. Add Jim's Secret Seasoning mix. Add next five ingredients and bring to a boil. Return to a simmer and cook for a few hours. Adjust seasoning to taste. Serve with Beer.