It was perfect weather for eating chili. So said many of the attendees at the 6th Annual Santa Clarita Valley Charity Chili Cook-off.
Despite a steady downpour and gray and gloomy skies, the event, held Tuesday at Wolf Creek Brewery in Valencia, attracted a large crowd to sample the offerings of 44 chili chefs.
Past events have attracted “more than 1,000 guests,” said event founder Nicole Stinson of Estate Realty Group.
“We’re not crazy about the weather, but it still looks like we have a good turnout,” she said.
Event co-chair Amanda Benson of Ask Amanda said she was pleased to see the crowd.
“I can’t believe the turnout,” she said. “I’m so impressed and thrilled that so many people can out to support the event. I’m surprised. It is incredible.”
The event has become so popular with chili enthusiasts that many would-be cooks had to be turned away, said Benson.
“We have the most chili cookers we’ve ever had,” she said.
The SCV Charity Chili Cook-off benefits a different SCV nonprofit each year. This year’s beneficiary was the William S. Hart School District’s Wish Education Foundation, which is raising money to update the libraries within the school district. The Wish Foundation has a goal of raising $100,000 to improve school libraries with new technology and new print media.
“This year we chose the Wish Foundation because they serve all the middle and high schools,” said Benson. “We felt that they could spread the money around to all the schools. They really need the money, too. Their libraries have not had any state funding since 2008.”
Amy Daniels, executive director of the foundation, said she appreciated the community support demonstrated at the cook-off.
“It was a remarkable event despite the weather,” she said. “The entire community came out to have a great time and support a great cause.”
Guests could sample chili with mild, medium or hot spices and with meat that included venison, beef, chicken or pork.
One chili chef offered up a vegan alternative.
“Two of my kids are vegan, so I learned to cook vegan,” said Scott Ervin of Speakeasy Bakery, who enticed guests to try his all-vegan chili made with a meat substitute.
“I love the Wish Foundation, and this a fun event,” he said. “This is my second year at the event. I came last year and won. This is the same chili recipe, except I didn’t use beef this year.”
Jill Cox of Jill’s Cake Creations was a first-time chili cook-off attendee. Cox, in a wedding gown and Jeff Globerman, wearing a tuxedo, manned the SCV Wedding Professionals booth.
“We just wanted to have fun and help the Wish Foundation,” she said.
Cox said the weather was perfect for chili tasting.
“What more could you want when it is raining except chili?” she said.
Jeff Scott, sporting a crown and playing off the currently popular “Dilly, Dilly” ad campaign, said his “Chili… Dilly, Dilly” mile chili was made with “beef, Italian sausage, lots of love and a little spice.”
The cook-off judges were Santa Clarita City Councilman Cameron Smyth, American Gladiator Lori Fetrick and MasterChef Junior contestant Mackenzie Patten of Newhall.
“I tend to like hotter chili, but I want to taste the ingredients, too, not just the heat,” said Smyth.
He joked that the “free food” attracted him to the event – but on a serious note, he said the Wish Foundation is an important organization to support.
“Next year I’ll have two children in the Hart District,” he said. “In addition, I’m a graduate of the Hart District, and my father was a superintendent of the Hart District. When it is something to benefit the schools and the district, it is hard for me not to participate.”
The youngest judge, Patten, said she enjoyed the different tastes of the various chilis.
American Gladiator Fetrick said she is not a “chili connoisseur.”
“But I do enjoy chili,” she said.
This is the third year that Wolf Creek Brewery has hosted the cook-off. Owners Rob and Laina McFerren said they enjoy supporting the event.
“We are so excited that we had such a good turnout for the event, despite the weather,” Laina McFerren said. “We are so happy that Wolf Creek can be a venue to support so many community events.”
Greg and Chell Amsler of Salt Creek Grille served the restaurant’s signature bruschetta and shrimp and lobster bisque soup to VIP guests.
“We’ve been a part of the chili cook-off since the first event,” Greg Amsler said. “The Wish Foundation is a great cause.”
After sampling the numerous chilis, which came with fanciful names such as “Dragon’s Breath,” “Keller’s Killer Chili,” “Atomic Bombing Chili” and “Ring of Fire,” guests were able to vote for the People’s Choice.
Channi Kaur, with her Mango Habanero Chicken Masala chili, was named the People’s Choice winner for the second consecutive year.
Second place was captured by Kimberly Egan with her “It’s Just Chili.”
The third-place vote went to Mark Kagaoan’s “Imperial Pumpkin Chili.”
The judges selected Sonja Randall of Smokin’ Bar-B-Quties Catering as the winner of the first-place trophy with her Sonja’s Sweet and Savory Chili.
“I can’t believe I won. I’m shocked,” she said.
Randall said the secret ingredient to her chili is “love.”
“There are also seven kinds of beans and lots of spices,” she said.
The second-place winner was Steve Hyland with Steve’s Tex-Mex Chili.
Third place went to James O’Rourke and his SOF’s Top Secret Champion Chili.
The “best decorated booth” award went to Ariel Mathews of Perfect Day, Perfect Look, which offered guests Perfect Day Perfect Chili, a venison chili, and a chance to play “bra pong.”
For more information about the Wish Foundation and the effort to update the Hart District’s school libraries, visit www.wishscv.org and click on Help Our Libraries.