A Chip-Off the Old Block

The day was December 13, 2018, and Blue Ion crew was gathered in the kitchen. Spread out on the bar were 9 plates of various Lays chip flavors. In front of each of us was a sheet of tasting notes. The mood was tense – well, sort of. We were as tense as people can be when eating potato chips. We all moved from plate to plate, chipping away at our notes, marking things like color, acidity, body, primary aroma, and aftertaste. Though confusing, the tasting notes served one true purpose: to identify the flavor of the chip on the corresponding plate.

The table was set. Photo: Nic Lauretano

To truly understand what was happening that day, we go back a year, to the 2017 First Annual Chip-Off. Personally I can’t quite remember how it all came together, but I do know that I somehow found myself correctly identifying the most flavors of Pringles – narrowly beating out Brian Dadin by 1 flavor. I was awarded “Excellence in Pringles”, maybe my best professional achievement to date. I don’t claim to be a chip expert or even really love chips all that much – I just eat them if they are there. It’s like a reflex. Many of my grocery trips involve a half bag of chips eaten on the way home from the store. So I guess that made me a good candidate for winning the 2017 Chip-Off. Raw chip talent.

The 2017 Award

Crunch Time

In the days leading up to the 2018 Chip-Off, I had been fighting off a sinus infection and pain from what I would later learn was a tooth in need of a root canal. Still, I was feeling chipper. I had been regularly taking a nasal spray. I don’t know what the world of professional chip tasting says about performance enhancing drugs, but I didn’t feel these particular steroids gave me any competitive edge. Maybe they are what helped me get to where I did in the standings this year despite my dismal palate.

Tasting Notes in Progress. Photo: Nic Lauretano

The flavors presented to us ranged from the common to strange. We tasted flavors like Cheddar and Sour Cream, Salt and Vinegar, Ranch, and Dill Pickle. There were two types of BBQ chips which the judges required to be identified accurately and with precise detail. There was an odd, bright red chip which smelled faintly of cleaning products which I marked in my tasting notes as “Cranberry Sauce”. My other favorite guesses were “Siracha Thai”, “Hotel and Vinegar”, and “IDK But Gross”. In the end, the chip turned out to be Ketchup (evidentially hailing from Canada), and I don’t think anyone successfully identified it.

Let the Chips Fall Where They May

At the close of regular competition, there were three contestants tied in the lead. After deliberation from the judges panel, two new flavors were procured and presented in a playoff round. As it turns out, the final chips picked were some of Bennett Coleman’s favorite flavors, leading him to victory. Far from an easy win, the chip powered torch was passed to Bennett, and a new Chip-Off champion was crowned.

Finalist Jenny and Winner Bennett. Photo: Nic Lauretano

Though I may have been salty about the minutia required for identifying the BBQ chips, overall it turned out to be an excellent team building activity. Personally, I’m looking forward to what the judges of the 2019 Chip-Off will present. I’m hoping for Doritos or possibly Cheese-Its.

What are your favorite chip flavors? Do you have any suggestions for what kind of chip to taste next year? Comment below or tweet at us @blueion on twitter.