Seasoned chili cooker Jamie Grady, of Mount Olive, knew just what he was looking for Saturday afternoon as he tasted samples during the 11th annual Really Chili Challenge.

"I have tasted a majority of them," he said. "What I am looking for mainly is the color, the texture, the taste, the thickness -- loose or thick. So far I have found two that are right on."

His 7-year-old son James said his favorite was whichever one he was eating at the time.

James did say that his father's chili was as good as what he was eating at the moment.

They were among the many people who paid $5 each to attend the event that is the annual fundraiser for the Community Soup Kitchen, which serves close to 40,000 meals to people in need each year.

The Community Soup Kitchen, 112 W. Oak St., hit a benchmark on March 30 -- having served 1 million meals during its 37-year history in Goldsboro.

It serves an average of 160 meals per day and is open six days a week, Monday through Saturday, with lunch at 11 a.m.

The Really Chili Challenge was held from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday in the John Street parking lot off Center Street.

Participating teams set up a bucket at each booth where the public could make donations that equated to votes, which were later tallied for the People's Choice Award.

The total raised for the event was not available prior to press time Saturday night, but the People's Choice donations alone brought in $7,772.93.

Cornerstone Church won the award collecting $2,698. First Presbyterian Church was second with $2,321.33, and third place went to Daniels Memorial Church with $674.84.

The T.A. Loving Co. booth with its shark-themed "You are Going to Need a Bigger Bowel" won best booth honors.

Six teams were selected to go to the head table from where the three top-place finishers were selected.

The six teams were Benton and Sons, First Presbyterian Church, Goldsboro Elks Lodge, Cornerstone Church, Union Bank and Immediate Care.

Immediate Care's Dr. Chili's Germ-killing Chili won first place. Second place was won by the Union Bank's No Quarter Chili and third place by First Presbyterian Church's Hot Scots.

Immediate Care and First Presbyterian donated their prize money to the soup kitchen.

Consistency was the secret to his team's win, said Jeff Pitta, head cook for Immediate Care.

"We make the same chili every year," he said. "I have people who come and help out so that I can pay attention to my chili the whole time, and they take of the booth. It's wonderful."

There were no secret ingredients, he said.

"I have seven different types of pepper seasonings I try to put in there," he said. "I try to blend it in there well. I use ground chuck, and I use black beans and pinto beans because they are creamer and tend to take the heat out it when you eat it. I think is a little spicy."

It is the 10th year that Pitta has competed in the challenge.

He has won it three times. He also has two second-place and three third-place wins. He also has a fifth-place showing.

The only year he didn't place was the year that a hurricane forced him to cook his chili a day in advance.

That messed up the chili, he said.

The challenge is about more than bragging right and winning money though, he said.

"I love the opportunity to come out here and cook," Pitta said. "It is wonderful, and I think it is wonderful that I am able to help out with the soup kitchen this way because I don't really have time otherwise.

"I think it is a wonderful event. I think it is great. We have had beautiful weather today. It is one of the nicest that we have had. What they are doing here to help out the community, I know Immediate Care, the people I work for, are just so happy that we are able to help out this way."

Leslie Weil, soup kitchen board president, and Julia Clark, president-elect, were busy along with a host of volunteers managing the event.

Weil said that 18 of the 20 teams that signed up competed including booths by churches, businesses, the police department and Seymour Johnson Air Force Base Fire Department.

The challenge offered a wide range of the community with individual styles of chili, Weil said.

For a $5 ticket people could try as many booths as they wanted and as many times they wanted.

"This is our only fundraiser for the year," Weil said. "I think we typically make something in the $20,000 range, maybe a little more. It is our one big thing so we focus all of our energy into this. We try to make it a fun, welcoming, family friendly community event.

"We are pleased with the turnout. The weather is nice. It is not as cold as it sometimes is. It is a little cloudy, but it hasn't rained. I think that is going to come tonight."

The soup kitchen also receives a lot of "wonderful" community support in donations of food, Weil said.

"So we are well used and well loved by the community," she said. "We are just so thankful for their support."