Havasu Chili Cook-Off brings in some of nation’s best

March 4, 2019

The seventh annual Lake Havasu Chili Cook-Off took place at London Bridge Park Saturday afternoon where chili enthusiasts from all over the west coast competed to win a spot at this year’s International Chili Society’s World Championship Chili Cook-Off.

After hours of simmering, tasting, and sharing samples, participants handed over nearly a quart of their finest chili to the judges. According to score keeper, Karen Ray, “Anyone can sign up to judge this cook-off. We have a meeting beforehand to tell them what the parameters are and how to score the chili they are tasting. Although it’s anyone off the street, we want them to take it as seriously as possible because the first-place winners in each category get a chance to compete in the World Championship.”

There were four categories to judge at the competition which were homestyle, veggie, red, and chili verde. Each category would receive a first, second, and third place with each winner taking home a plaque and cash prize.

Ray and her husband, Bill have been a part of the chili community since 1979 with her husband winning a World Championship in 1994 for his red chili. “This is such a fun way to spend our time. All of the people involved are all very talented and work hard to perfect their recipes,” said Ray. “People come from all over the west coast to join this competition. It’s kind of a big deal to be that much closer to the chance at the World Championship.”

Becoming the chili cook-off world champion is the goal of the participants. Some of the entrants have been doing this for many years, some even said they were born to do this. Chuck Harber, a proud chili cook-off world champion, grew up in New Mexico where his entire family grew and cooked their own chilis. Just a few tables down, Mike Stewart, a 19-time World Championship participant, has been a part of the chili community since 1985 when he began attending cook-offs with a friend. “Try to be as consistent as possible. I weigh my spices on a scale and take exact measurements of my liquids, especially during a competition,” advised Stewart.

The chili cook-off is more than just a competition. It’s a place for family and friends to enjoy themselves with live music, local vendors, and of course, some delicious samplings of chili.