Trevor Bothwell is T-Rev, the man behind this award winning chili. He is filled with a lot of energy and personality when you meet him. Scott Roberts and I had the opportunity to do so at the recent Peppers at the Beach show. It was Trevor’s first coming out party for his new chili starter and hot sauce combo. We did another on the spot review while there, but before we get to that, how about a little background about this new company from T-Rev himself…
T-Rev’s Stiff Willi Chili™ came from, and believe it or not it actually has its roots in my college days back in the early ’90s. I wasn’t throwing chili recipes together back then, but my buddy Brian Richards was the first to coin the term “T-Rev,” a play off my first name, Trevor.
After college most of my friends and I went our separate ways, and “T-Rev” began to go the way of the dodo as new buddies replaced old. So fast forward about 15 years. I’ve got a great gig going with a wife and wonderful son, but I’m otherwise always looking for any good opportunity to get out of the house for a weekend of fun.
I live in Maryland and for years I’d heard about the DC 101 Chili Cook-Off in Washington, DC but had rarely given it a second thought. Until 2008. As a huge fan of cooking and eating in general, I decided I might as well try my hand at a chili cook-off and see how well my recipe stacks up against all the big guys (the 2008 DC101 Chili Cook-Off was won by Jim Parker, owner of the Hard Times Cafe, a small empire of chili parlors in the DC metro area). So I signed up for the 2009 DC regional chili cook-off and it was on.
Damn. I need a team name. I need a logo. I need money to pay for everything I’ll have to buy just to compete in a one-day event. I need a good competition chili recipe! What the hell did I just get myself into?!?
Well, first things first. In February 2009 I gathered up some friends who were interested in being my sous chefs for the cook-off and we had a brainstorming session in my kitchen with some bourbon and a 30-pack of Miller Lite. At some point I blurted out the name “T-Rev’s Stiff Willi Chili,” mostly because it rhymed but also in part because I’m a little warped, and I figured it might be nice to throw my boy B-Rich a little love and revitalize a nickname that saw me through some of the best times of my life. For weeks everyone told me that was the name I should go with, but I was hardly in love with “Stiff Willi Chili.” Sure, it rolled off the tongue but at that point that’s all it really did. It needed more, and I know now that it was simply incomplete without a mascot.
So with the DC101 Chili Cook-Off only a couple months away I started sketching out a chili pepper. I gave the draft to my brother Erik and he finalized it, coming up with the version that you now know and love. It was perfect. All I needed to do now was come up with a cool font for the name and put it all together. That’s where my girl Molly, a graphic artist for Chesapeake Custom Embroidery, came in. She used her expertise to synthesize weeks of my own trial and error and generated the logo you see today. The minute she showed it to me I knew I had something special. And yes, the name finally made sense.
In May 2009 T-Rev’s Stiff Willi Chili won the DC101 Chili Cook-Off. After months of researching competition chili recipes and dropping hundreds of dollars to put them to the test in my kitchen, I told myself I would be happy placing in the top five. I’ll never forget the moment when my buddy Mike Hawkins ran to my tent nearly delirious as he told me I had to come with him, that he’d just walked by the judges’ tent on his way back from the beer tent (where else?) and heard them announce that I won first place. If I recall correctly I replied, “Don’t [mess] with me, dude.” He insisted he wasn’t so we both rushed to the judges’ tent, where I was congratulated on my victory and told that I automatically qualified for the World’s Championship Chili Cookoff sanctioned by the International Chili Society.
And then we moshed.
Life should be a party, and T-Rev’s Stiff Willi Chili is all about having fun and kicking back with great food, cold drinks, and good friends.
We hope you’ll join us!