Spice of life: chili cook-off will put zing in your zang
by BART MENDOZA
Jun 26, 2014 | 1388 views | 0 0 comments | 25 25 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The chili cook-off component of the Ocean Beach Street Fair is always a hot draw. Photo by Jim Grant
The chili cook-off component of the Ocean Beach Street Fair is always a hot draw. Photo by Jim Grant
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While there is no shortage of fun activities at the Ocean Beach Street Fair, the day’s signature event is easily the chili cook-off feature, which takes place at Veterans’ Plaza at the foot of Newport Avenue.

If you like chili, there will be no better place to sample variations on the delicacy than at this year’s street fair.

Tasting begins at 11 a.m., though the line starts forming at 10 a.m.

Tickets for tasting and judging the various entries run $1 for two servings, or you can get a People’s Choice ticket for $20, allowing you to sample all of the team’s chili offerings.

This year, there will be almost two dozen competitors in two categories — restaurant and amateur — with judging based on consistency, smell, color and taste.

Both meat and vegetarian chili will be available. But, you’re advised to get there early.

Even with almost 60 gallons of chili from such local restaurants as Shades Oceanfront Bistro and Craves Cafe, alongside 10 gallons each from the contestants, it’s all gone by 2 p.m. — if not before.

The event was founded in 1984 by current OBMA board of directors member Mike Akey, who comes from a long line of chili enthusiasts, including his father, Angie Scaramuzzo.

He is the event’s chief judge. According to Akey, it’s pretty easy to tell who has the best chili on competion day.

“If you watch the lines, you can tell which one is most popular,” he said. “The longer the line, the more people that think it’s good.”

He said the teams of chilimakers go all out in order to win. And that doesn’t always just apply to the recipes.

“Some people dress up for this and they’ll have a theme for their booth,” Akey said.

“They get the people there involved. It’s like a big show the whole time. The people are voting for their chili, so you want to get their attention. They go all-out for that,” he said.

As for those secret chili recipes, he points out that exotic ingredients still pop up in some dishes, but not as often,

“Pretty much those days are over,” he said. “You hear about someone using rattlesnake and so on. People now use more common sense and shoot for winning.”

Winners also get prize money and a framed plaque.

After three decades of work with the chili cook-off, does Akey still like the stuff?

“Yes,” he laughed. “But not all year.”
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