Unlike previous years, this year's cook-off will be approved and sanctioned by the International Chili Society, which is hosting the World Championship Chili Cook-off in Iowa in September, according to the event website. All cooks will be required to be ICS members; however, the city of Palo Alto will provide competing cooks a one-time membership. According to Stephanie Douglas, the city's superintendent of recreation services, the annual event is a great way for neighbors to gather, get to know one another and celebrate the community they live in.
Of the 11 teams that have registered for the competition, three are new this year: Sound Bites, The Musical Fruit and MB's Place. The seven returning teams include Super Shounak's Super Sonic Tonic, El Viaje Misterioso, Hung Over Chili, Karate Kids, Lounge Lizard, Chili Chili Bang Bang, Ratrod Chili and the Klemens Family. All teams are restricted to cooking traditional red chili, homestyle chili, chili verde or veggie chili. According to Douglas, the best approach going into the cook-off is to "have fun and stick to your family's recipe."
David Chase, a member of last year's winning team California Red, said he enjoyed his experience competing in the cook-off. His team prepared beef chili with top sirloin cut into cubes, green poblano peppers, jalapeno, fresh cilantro, fresh onions and fresh ground pepper.
"It's a very, very busy day for the cook teams," Chase said. "Chatting with the customers is always fun, and we try to answer all their questions."
Chase has 19 years of chili cook-offs under his belt but has only competed with California Red at the Palo Alto Chili Cook-off since 2017. However, due to prior commitments, he and the team will not be attending the event this year.
"Never experiment at a cook-off," Chase said, offering a word of advice to the new teams. "Don't let your chili burn — have someone watching it all the time. Read the rules and guidelines multiple times and incorporate them into your plan."
In addition to the top honor of best overall chili, awards will be given for second and third place, plus "People's Choice," "Best Spirit" and "Best Decorated Booth."
There will be 2,000 tasting tickets sold for $5 each, Douglas said. Each ticket will include five tastings and a ballot to vote. She expects the event to attract around 5,000 to 6,000 people. In addition to chili, there will be live music, a kids area with bouncy houses, outdoor lawn games, face painting and food trucks.
The cook-off will be held at Mitchell Park, located at 600 East Meadow Drive. There will be a shuttle provided for those who park at the nearby Cubberley Community Center at 4000 Middlefield Road. The event will start at noon, and the chili tasting is slated to begin at 1:30 p.m.
All proceeds from the 2019 Chili Cook-Off tasting tickets will benefit the Palo Alto Recreation Foundation. More information about the event is posted at paloaltochilicookoff.com.