Some Like It Hot – Getting Ready for the OB Chili Cook Off

by on June 25, 2009 · 4 comments

in Ocean Beach, San Diego

As part of the OB Rag’s team coverage of the 30th Annual Ocean Beach Street Fair & Chili Cook Off, we’re presenting this little “warm up” for Saturday’s Chili Cook Off.

We’ll have our own correspondent “embedded” deep within this fierce competition. Our citizen-reporter Wireless Mike agreed to take a hit for the OB Rag team and will be at the Chilifest starting as early as he can make it. (We took up a collection for body armor and anti-acids and came up short, so he’s settled for a pint of vanilla ice cream and a ginger ale.) Mike’s bravery and dedication stands in stark contrast to our beloved Mayor, who passed on the opportunity to judge the Cook Off.

Enough with the shameless self-promotion and editorializing, already. First, the facts. Then a little background so this doesn’t completely look like a blatant plug for OBMA and the Street Festival organizers:

Who’s Cooking

Peoples Chili Chefs

Tracy Scott (team name: o-beeya chili)

Deborah Knowles (Red Hot Chili Peckers)

Mike McCormick

Wesley Slack

Rob Forsberg (Spenla and Hover)

Theodore Gallopes

Cory Loughlin

Tom Wilbur, Julie Stoltz, and Paul Hissong

Chris Seeleyv

Ryan Gehris from Cheswicks West

Betty Deever

Ray Lah

Glyn Franks (OB yacht club)

Glyn Franks (Margaritavilli chili)

Daniel Hershey

Steve Dohrunun

Jennifer Reynolds

Michael De Pompeo

Lindsey Roland

Kelly Rigg

Fred Macdonald (Thunder Carrot)

Participating Restaurants

Kimberly Eastwood (Point Loma Beach Cafe)

Tiny’s Tavern

Lahaina Beach House (Steve)

Bravo’s Mexican Bistro and Cantina

When & Where:

The Cook Off runs from 10:00am to 2:00pm and is in Veteran’s Park at the foot of Newport Avenue.

Crave’s Cafe & Shades Oceanfront Bistro will be hosting the event.

Come early, as the really “hot stuff” tends to run out by 1 pm or so. It’s $10 for a People’s Choice Tasting Ticket or 50 cents for individual ticket, which are sold at a booth near the flagpole.

Booths dispense small cups of chili & a spoon: you must buy tickets prior to getting in line at any of the booths. (Hint: Longer lines usually mean better Chili) In addition, “Committee Chili”, provided by Craves, will be available for $1 per bowl. Around 3pm the awards are announced from the Main Stage in the OB Pier parking lot.

There are opportunities to vote for your favorite. Awards include: Hottest, Best Decorated booth, Best 92107 entry, and Most Spirited. Funds raised from the Cook Off support the annual 4th of July fireworks display at the OB pier.

The Official Chili Judges assess the quality of entries using the following criteria:


** Taste



**Meat (if used) Tenderness

Why All The Fuss?

We have no idea. But Chili Cook Offs are a really big deal in the United States.

One of the two groups that sanction these events (the OB event is not sanctioned) has 38 Cook Offs listed for California in 2009. Chiliheads are a cantankerous bunch, rarely agreeing on much of anything except for their love of what Texans call “A Bowl of Red”.

The first recorded event, according to author Linda Stradley at the website What’s Cooking America, was at the Texas State Fair in 1952, when Mrs F.G. Ventura of Dallas was crowned the first ever “World Champion Chili Cook.” She retained that title for 15 years.

The event that launched the Chili Cook Off phenomena as we now know it took place in 1967 Terlingua, Texas. This seminal event was actually a competition between two writers, one of whom had penned an article for Holiday Magazine boasting this his chili recipe was better than anything that was currently being served in Texas. The recipe included beans, which offended many Texans, and the scene was set for a showdown in a remote mining town, located nearly 300 miles from the nearest commercial airport, to discourage non-Texans from attending.

The competition ended in a tie, when the tie breaking judge spit out his chili, declaring that his taste buds were “ruint”, declaring that they would have to re-do the event next year.

According to Sports Illustrated coverage of this historic showdown, the judge was given a spoonful of chili which he promptly spit out…

“Then he went into convulsions. He rammed a white handkerchief down his throat as though he were cleaning a rifle barrel, and in an agonizing whisper…pronounced himself unable to go on.”

And for those of you who think that chili is somehow a Mexican invention, we refer you to the 1959 edition of Diccionario de Mejicanismos, which defines the stuff thusly:

“Detestable food passing itself off as Mexican, sold in the US from Texas to New York.”

For more cool stuff about chili, visit:

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Wireless Mike June 25, 2009 at 8:05 pm

I’ll be there with a hearty appetite and a big water bottle (but no body armor). Hope to get there early so I can chat with some of the contestants and taste some of that good stuff they’re cookin’ up. See you there.
-Wireless Mike


jon June 26, 2009 at 8:01 am

My mouth is watering. Only 24 hours to go. Thanks for providing all the details Doug. I’m sure the chefs appreciate the added coverage!


BillRayDrums June 26, 2009 at 9:40 am

For starters, I love this blog! So nice to interact with the local community online!

I’m equally as excited! My son (almost 9) has never been to an OB event this large. He’s going to be completely enamored.


PSD June 26, 2009 at 8:08 pm

Mmmm…in preparation for tomorrow I’ve accomplished the rare feat of abstaining from jalapenos, habaneros, and hot sauces of all kinds since all the way back to lunch this afternoon. They’ll still be selling the $10 passes on site tomorrow, right?


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