The vastly different results make it more likely the odds are what they seem, not rigged. But also, there seems to be a sort of inflection point around 21 non-chilis, where the odds finally become good enough to reach 15 draws fairly regularly.
If you didn't spend gems on spins to get those ingredients early, then most of your cooking will have shit odds, and even a perfect run gets you hardly anything. Once you have enough ingredients to have better odds, there's still a lot of cooking needed to grind through, with no guarantee you won't be one of the people drawing three Chilis repeatedly.
So basically there are two strategies: spend absolutely zero gems and take what paltry rewards you can get for free, or spend lots of gems early on spins, then at the end dump more gems in to get all the equipment. Half-measures seem likely to lead to regrets.
I wish I'd put more gems into spins as soon as I found out there were only 5 Chilis... But I didn't; I put 200-ish in and ended up getting my last ingredient on my very last spin (with two of the awful pot "rewards" still there, phew). Near the end I spent 300 gems on putting chili back in the bag, and when I ran out of tickets I was only 9k away from the first equipment piece. 230 gems later I reached 25 draws and got 10k pots for that, putting me well past the first piece of equipment 🙂 240 more got me piece 2, 200 got me piece three and another ridiculous 25-draw, and the final piece cost 240 again. That adds up to... roughly 1400 gems, maybe a bit more, for 8 slots of decent equipment. Considering I usually spend 1000 to get 4 slots in the tiered offer, that's actually not so bad 🙂
I still think this event was a trainwreck, though. 😋