Southwest Regional and New Mexico State Chili Cookoffs

    New Mexico had two premier chili cookoffs that were once again held at the Route 66 Casino Hotel, outside of Albuquerque, August 9th and August 10th.  Saturday the 9th was the Southwest Regional and Sunday the 10th was the New Mexico State.  The weather was perfect both days for cooking and the rain held out until after the cookoff on Sunday. The set up, perfectly done by the casino, was like a mini World’s Championship, complete with separate cooks tents, 2 tables and 2 chairs each.  A large wash and waste station was also available, really close to the cooking tents for the cooks to use.  Every cook was impressed with the set up.

    Cooks came from 10 states (AZ, CA, CO, IL, NM, NV, OH, OK, TX, WI), and we had several World’s Champions that competed with us this year, including Mike and Bonnie Ford from La Mirada, California, Tom Hoover from Columbus, Ohio, and Al Henry from Lakewood, Co.  Mike Goodman and Jill Goldberg drove all the way in from Madison, Wisconsin.  This late in the season, we were fortunate to have enough cooks on Saturday and Sunday to have 2 tables in Red Chili each day.  Thank you to all the cooks that showed up and competed for spots at the World’s Championships, the weekend of October 24-26, in Las Vegas, Nevada.   

    The huge Classic Car and Hot Rod Show, with over 300 cars, (the largest car show in the Southwest) was next to the chili cookoff and it was very impressive.  There were many 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 $2,300 towards the Laguna Acoma High School in Casa Blanca, NM, for their football uniforms and equipment.  Way to go!!

    I gave out lots of Sunsweet prunes to all the cooks, and lots to the public.  The chocolate covered prune samples were being requested by everyone, and it was hard to keep them from melting, since it was pretty hot out there both days. The prune “bites” and prune “Ones” were being eaten by cooks and public alike.  Hundreds of my World’s Championship Red recipes were given out.  People couldn’t believe the “secret ingredient” in the current World’s Champion’s chili recipe.  

    The Route 66 Casino gave every cook a very large and beautiful southwestern ceramic Chip and Dip platter, and a $10 off voucher towards the casino’s buffet. The Casino’s ”special gifts” were very much appreciated by all of the cooks.

    I know I say this every year, but 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!!  The casino crew also recruits great judges every year from the Food and Beverage Department.  Also, great kudos and thank you’s go out to our great scorekeeping and wrangling team, who kept the back end of the cookoff running so smoothly.  They were - my wife, Kathy Plager - Chief Scorekeeper, Lynn Kost Virant, Joe Galli, Ryan Tehar and Chief Wrangler and all around go to guy, Greg Virant.  Bonnie Ford helped scorekeep on Sunday.  (Pete and Nicole Caimi were very much missed this year.)  You guys are a great team to work with!!

Now, on to the winners:

Southwest Regional - Saturday, Aug, 9th

People’s Choice

Tina Crutchfield - AZ

Salsa - 10 Entries

3rd Place - Mike Fenley - AZ

2nd Place - Paul Whitney - AZ

1st Place - Karen Cullum - TX

Chili Verde - 17 Entries

HM - Tie not broken for 5th Place - Cheryl Archuleta - NM

HM - Tie not broken for 5th Place - Al Henry - CO 

HM - 4th Place - Barbara Herrin - TX 

3rd Place - Mike Rook - CO

2nd Place - Jill Goldberg - WI

1st Place - Bonnie Ford - CA (A runaway)

Red Chili - 21 Entries

HM - 5th Place - Dick Swenberger - AZ

HM - 4th Place - Dave Wright - AZ

3rd Place - Tom Hoover - OH

2nd Place - Skip Cooley - NV (Yes Skip, Don’s going)

1st Place - Don Cullum - TX (Smiling ear to ear)

New Mexico State - Sunday, Aug. 10

People’s Choice

Marcella Archuleta - NM

Salsa - 10 Entries

3rd Place - George Lott - CO

2nd Place - Barbara Herrin - TX

1st Place - Susan Hyden - AZ (Very excited)

Chili Verde - 16 Entries

HM - 5th Place - Louis Gonzales - TX

HM - 4th Place - Gloria Stevens - IL

3rd Place - Mike Stevens - IL

2nd Place - Susan Hyden - AZ

1st Place - Mike Rook - CO

Red Chili - 21 Entries

HM - Tie not broken for 5th Place -  Morris Moss - TX

HM - Tie not broken for 5th Place - Donna Foley - TX

HM - 4th Place - Mick Joplin - TX

3rd Place - Jill Goldberg - WI

2nd Place - Skip Cooley - NV (Yes Skip, Mike is going)

1st Place - Mike Stevens - IL (Repeat Winner)

Bob Plager - Chief Judge

2012 & 2013 ICS World’s Red Champion



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