Is your chili recipe the best in town? What about in the state? Could it hold up against the chili experts of Texas? Put it to the test at the 11th Annual California State Championship Chili Cookoff at Woodbridge Winery in Acampo.
The winner gets bragging rights, as well as a shot to the World Championship in Terlingua, Texas. All proceeds from the cookoff go to benefit the Lodi Public Library Foundation.
“People get so into it. There’s a fine set of rules,” said Larry Pilmaier, Visitors Center Manager at the winery. “The recipes are closely guarded, and some people even have secret spice grinding techniques.”
The path to the world championship is complex. Teams need six points to enter. Those can be earned by winning a cookoff outright, as long as its officially sanctioned by the Chili Appreciation Society International.
“There’s a huge rivalry between Texas and California on chili,” said Pilmaier. “Chili was born in Texas, but California puts in a good effort.”
Judges do a blind tasting, looking for color, consistency aroma and texture of the chili. No beans or other fillers are allowed.
“Chili in Texas is red. These are Texas rules,” said Pilmaier.
Saturday’s event is not just for competitiors. The public is free to enter and enjoy a DJ and a car show. Purchase small bowls for tasting chili from the front table, then make your way around the cooks’ booths to try all the recipes. The public vote determines the People’s Choice Award. There’s also an engraved wine bottle waiting for the California State Champion, the top three winners and the Best Showmanship Award. Cooks can enter a contest for salsa and guacamole as well.