Two great cookoffs were once again held at the Route 66 Casino Hotel, outside of Albuquerque, New Mexico, August 10th and August 11th.  Saturday was the Southwest Regional and Sunday was the New Mexico State.  The set up, once again, was like a mini World’s Championship, complete with separate cooks tents, 2 tables and 2 chairs each, that were set up by the casino.  A large wash and waste station was also set up real close to the cooking tents for the cooks to use.

  Cooks came from 7 states (AZ, CO, IL, NM, NV, OH, TX), and we also had the current Chili Verde Champion, Bob Hall, competing in Red Chili.  This late in the season, we were fortunate to have enough cooks on Saturday to have 2 tables in Red Chili (22 cooks), and on Sunday, 2 tables of Red Chili (21 cooks) and 2 tables of Chili Verde (21 cooks).  Thank you to all the cooks that showed up and competed for spots at the World’s Championships in October, in Palm Springs, California. 

   As the current Red World’s Champion, I had the pleasure of dealing with the Casino’s Executive Chef, Chef Gilles Desnous, and his Executive Sous Chef, Jesus Martinez, in preparing my Red Chili “competition chili recipe” for over 100 of their VIP’s for a Friday night party.  I showed a video of the Top 5 being called up at the World’s Championship and did a PowerPoint presentation of pictures of the World’s, and talked about what it was like being a World’s Champion.  Everyone there enjoyed the dinner presentation, and had lots of questions on the differences between New Mexico style Red chili and “competition chili”. 

   The huge Classic Car and Hot Rod Show (over 300 cars), was next to the chili cookoff, and it was very impressive.  WOW, what beautiful cars!!

 With no entry fees, the cooks supplied lots of People’s Choice chili (tasting kits were sold for $5.00 each), to donate more than $2600 towards the Laguna Acoma High School in Casa Blanca, NM, for their football uniforms and equipment.  Way to go!!

   We gave out Sunsweet prunes to all the cooks, and lots to the public.  They couldn’t believe the “secret ingredient” in the current World’s Champion’s chili recipe.  El Pato had donated lots of their products, which we gave away in goodie bags to the cooks.  The Route 66 Casino gave every cook a very nice stainless steel frying pan, and a $10 off voucher towards the casino’s buffet. The Casino’s ”special gifts” were very much appreciated by all of the cooks.

   Special thank you’s go out to Skip Sayre, the Cookoff Chairman, along with his fantastic crew of organizers (Steven Concho, Emma Mansfield, Helmut Perzi, and Carol Fabionski), who handled and took care of every minute detail for us running the cookoffs successfully.  They are the best!!  Also, great kudos and thank you’s go to out great scorekeeping and wrangling team, who kept the back end of the cookoff running so smoothly.  They were - my wife, Kathy Plager - Chief Scorekeeper, Nicole Caimi, Dione Cooley, Lynn Kost Virant and wranglers and all around go to people - Pete Caimi, Skip Cooley, and Greg Virant.  You guys are a great team to work with.

Now, on to the winners:

Southwest Regional - Saturday, Aug, 10

People’s Choice

Cheryl Archuletta - NM

Salsa - 14 Entries

HM - 5th Place - Jesus Martinez - NM

HM - 4th Place - Louis Gonzalez - TX

3rd Place - Mick Joplin - TX

2nd Place - Dick Swenberger - AZ

1st Place - Don Cullum - TX

Chili Verde - 20 Entries

HM - 5th Place - Nadine Marquez - NM

HM - 4th Place - Al Henry - CO

3rd Place - Bonnie Tomasek - CO

2nd Place - Larry Swallow - CO

1st Place - Tom Hoover - OH

Red Chili - 22 Entries

HM - 4th Place (Tie not broken) - Dave Wright - AZ

                                                Donna Foley - TX

3rd Place - Steve Tomasek - CO

2nd Place - Mike Rook - CO

1st Place - George Lott - CO (Very emotional winner)


New Mexico State - Sunday, Aug. 11

People’s Choice

Marcella Archuleta - NM

Salsa - 13 Entries

HM - 5th Place - Marcella Estrada - NM

HM - 4th Place - Marcella Archuleta - NM

3rd Place - Donna Foley - TX

2nd Place - Mick Joplin - TX

1st Place - Dick Swenberger - AZ (Completes his Hat Trick)

Chili Verde - 21 Entries

HM - 3-way tie for 4th Place (not broken)

        Mike Herrera - AZ

        Cindy Haught - NV

        Donna Foley - TX

3rd Place - Karen Cullum - TX

2nd Place - Paul Whitney - AZ

1st Place - Louis Gonzales - TX

Red Chili - 21 Entries

HM - 5th Place - Tom Hoover - OH

HM - 4th Place - Edward Huffman - CO

3rd Place - Mike Rook - CO

2nd Place - Susan Hyden - AZ

1st Place - Mike Stevens - IL

Bob Plager - Chief Judge

2012 ICS World’s Red Champion




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