SPARKS — Judges said the competition was fierce Saturday at the Reno-Sparks Regional Chili Cook-Off at Victorian Square as the best cooks in California, Oregon and Nevada vied for a spot in the International Chili Society’s national contest.
“I had a really hard time choosing a winner,” one of the 28 volunteer judges said Saturday afternoon.
Competitors entered their best red chili, salsa and salsa verde in Saturday’s contest for a chance to compete in the World’s Championship Cook-Off Sept. 30 through Oct. 2 in New Hampshire.
“This is the premier event,” Reno resident Skip Cooley said as he watched judges sample chili Saturday.
Cooley already has qualified for the world championships, so he and his wife Dione said they were just helping with the local competition.
“Once you have qualified, you can’t compete again,” Cooley said. “That way it gives other people a chance.”
Twenty competitors entered red chili, but only three walked away with prizes. Each judge picked their three favorites in order from first to third place, and then the scores were tallied according to a point system.
“The judges have been given instructions on what to look for such as texture and flavor,” Cooley said. “But in the end the result is what tastes best to each judge.”
Ryan Hipskind of Roseville, Calif., won the red chili contest and a spot in the world championships. Second place went to Nita Montgomery of Gardnerville, and in third was Adrian Fuhrman of Felton, Calif.
Montgomery won the chile verde contest, with Bob Tyree of Bonanza, Ore., coming in second. Third place went to Steve McIntire, Folsom, Calif.
McIntire took first in the salsa contest, with Gerry Lind of Rocklin, Calif., in second and Amy Lind of Carson City in third.
Amy Lind said she and her father Gerry compete against each other on a regular basis.
“He always wins,” she said with a laugh.
The cook-off was hosted by O’Ski’s Pub and Grille and included chili tasting, a people’s choice competition, more than 40 arts and crafts booths, a balloon artist and competitions for children and adults. A host of local sponsors supported the event, but five actually entered chili in the people’s choice contest: Paddy and Irene’s, Great Basin Brewing Co., O’Ski’s, Porky’s and the Sparks Tribune.
This is the first year O’Ski’s has hosted the event, and Mary Geisler, “mom” to the O’Ski’s team, said it was a great success.
“It has been very successful,” Geisler said as she served up chili to hungry guests. “People have been coming out and really enjoying it.”
Sparks resident Cheryl Landeros said she tasted several of the dishes and was surprised by the bold flavors.
“They’re just all very different,” Landeros said. “Different flavors, different textures. Some are more spicy than I am used to … but it has been good.”