Chili Cookoff draws large Catalina crowd

Mark Hottendorf won for Judge’s Best Chili. Courtesy photo

This past Memorial Weekend’s 3rd annual Catalina Island Chili Cookoff was an overwhelming success. Twenty chili and nine salsa chefs competed for more than $3,000 in prizes. While it may have not been the largest chili festival in the States, it was surely the most beautiful, as an estimated 500 locals and visitors enjoyed the picturesque view from South Beach. The contest hosts three separate contests: Judge’s Best Chili, People’s Choice Chili and People’s Choice Salsa. As part of the mere $20 fee to attend visitors are tasked with choosing their favorites which proved to be a challenge. The grand prize winners in each category were Mark Hottendorf for Judge’s Best Chili, Chris Stein for People’s Choice Chili and for the 3rd year in a row Susie Sabacer for People’s Choice Salsa. While these standouts went home with the big money each entrant offered scrumptious tastings in style. Buffalo, Brisket and even Sierra Nevada Beer Chili were present as well as Mexican Chili Puercos. Libations are necessary at such an event and in addition to four major breweries our local Catalina Island Brewhouse donated a keg of unique local beer and volunteers blended Margaritas to complete an epic tasting experience.

The Cookoff is quickly becoming the premier fundraiser for the Rotary Club of Avalon and in its third year collected more than double the net proceeds from last year, all of which will go to community programs and local Avalon School scholarships.

This year’s chair Connie Stewart and her team worked tirelessly to draw contestants and sponsors from near and far. Fifty-plus volunteers over two days contributed including the Avalon Interact Club which is comprised of students from Avalon High School. The judges were top notch; Tim Kennedy, an executive whose hotel chain owns the Holiday Inn Resort on the island and is a professional winning chili chef, Cynthia Rebollado and Sarah Bennett who are both influential food writers for OC Weekly.

The preparation for next year’s event has already begun and the hopes and expectations are higher than ever.

The unprecedented publicity of year three will bring revolutionary concepts to year four as this fledgling event bursts out of its proverbial shell. The Rotary Club of Avalon would like to give thanks to all the sponsors, volunteers, contestants and visitors without whom this event would not be possible. See you all next Memorial Day for another family fun affair that is sure to impress.

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