Southern California has been blessed with a very mild summer—-so far.  Saturday’s weather for the 26th annual Western Regional Chili Cookoff was no exception.  You could not have wished for a better day.  For the members of the Board of Directors, who work very hard to make this cookoff a success, it is also a very long day.  The first workers arrive at 6:00 am to greet the contestants and help with setup.  Some are still there at 7:00 pm, making sure that everything is left in shipshape order.  Prior to this day most of them have also spent countless hours planning, shopping and preparing for the event.

The Del Mar Thoroughbred Club has sponsored this cookoff for 17 years as an added attraction for the race fans, who enjoy the People’s Choice chili in between horse races.  The tasting kits are provided free of charge to the tasters, who are encouraged to vote for their favorite chili.  We are glad to welcome back Will and Gail Watkins to the event after several years’ absence.  They were a part of the team that formed the first Western Regional Chili Cookoff Board of Directors.  Now that they are located in Southern California again, they have stepped right in and assumed the responsibility for the People’s Choice portion of the contests.  One of their welcome innovations is that they provided the cooks with information about how many votes each received.  Located next to the tasting kit booth was the day’s onsite charity “Soldier’s Angels”, an organization that provides support for military returning from combat.  Their specialty is to welcome home the combatants with such things as home-cooked meals.  People were encouraged to make a donation when they returned their People’s Choice ballot and before the day was over they had raised $2165.43 

Other important sponsors are Smart & Final and Walker Foods (El Pato products).  Smart & Final provided all of the ingredients for the nice lunch made available to the judges, prepared and supervised by Sachiko Brecke.  However, Sachiko herself provides and prepares her wonderful sushi, which many of us look forward to having every year!  Smart & Final also provided many of the supplies that are necessary for the cookoff, such as water, spoons, sour cream, tortilla chips, flour tortillas and many other items.  Walker Foods generously supplied various El Pato products, which are distributed to the contestants as “goodie bags”, as they do at many chili cookoffs.

Many individuals contribute to the success of this cookoff.  I hesitate to try to name them all, as I would surely forget someone’s important contribution.  Let it be said that you know who you are and we know who are, and your help is very greatly appreciated.  Red Brecke chairs the cookoff and does an outstanding job.  Chief Judge is Mike Austin.  Chief Scorekeeper is Kathy Stewart, assisted by Allene Macklin, Karen Ray, Tish Crawford (in training) and Ramona Inman (Fred & Leah Wieland’s daughter).

The day was greatly enjoyed by all participants, and the winners of a total of $3,400 in prize money were:

Salsa (14 contestants):

3rd Place           Bonnie Ford

2nd Place          Nicole Rayor

1st Place           Sylvia Rasey

Chili Verde (10 contestants):

3rd Place           Russell Barnes

2nd Place          Darlene Taylor

1st Place         Jim Latendresse

People’s Choice (everybody):

5th Place           Dave Thomas

4th Place           Lance Kramer

3rd Place           Liz Tucker (brand new cook!)

2nd Place          Paul Sauerhammer

1st Place           Chuck Harber

Traditional Red Chili (21 contestants):

4th Place Tie     Ken Brown and Howard Choate (apologies to Ken that he was not mentioned at the awards)

3rd Place           Barry Steinberg

2nd Place          Charlie Ward

1st Place           Dave Thomas

Congratulations to all!

Submitted by Karen Ray



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