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Chili challengers vie for titles

Sandi Hoover
shoover@nevadaappeal.com
Photos by Sandi Hoover/Nevada AppealRon Judson of Red Bluff, Calif., stirs his pot of red chili during the High Sierra Regional Chili Cookoff at Glen Eagles Restaurant Saturday. The competition continues today for the Nevada Capital Regional Cookoff.
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For Shari Watts of Tahoe Vista, the High Sierra Regional Cookoff at Glen Eagles Restaurant was a perfect way to enjoy the weekend.

Her brother and sister-in-law, the Deckers, were participating in the event from the Bay Area, so Watts came to Carson City for the day.

“We always come down to support them, and it’s a bit of a reunion for us,” she said, explaining that her daughter and family from Gardnerville join the group as do her niece’s family from Sparks, her sister from Reno and brother from Dayton.

“This is the fourth year we’ve gotten together. We’ll spend four or five hours tasting the chili and salsa, and today is just gorgeous,” Watts said.

The High Sierra Regional Chili Cookoff took place Saturday, and the Nevada Capital Regional is today from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Glen Eagles Restaurant in north Carson City.

A winner from each of three categories – red chili, chili verde and salsa will emerge from each day. All winners will go on to compete in the 2010 World Championship Chili Cookoff in Manchester, N.H., in October, said Bob Grayson, chief judge for the International Chili Society.

Grayson said there are 11 competing in the red chili category each day, seven in the chili verde slot and eight for the salsa prize. His wife Julie is chief score keeper.

“We’ve got beautiful weather, a beautiful venue and the cooks are having a ball,” he said. “The cooks love it up here. This is our eighth year.”

He said the cookoff couldn’t have been such a success without the help of Glen Eagles or its chef John Ammerman, or the Soroptimists who stepped in three weeks ago when the cookoff lost a sponsor.

“What they’ve done in just three weeks is absolutely amazing,” he said.

In one competitor’s booth, J.R. Knudson, 94, and his wife Margo, 89, chatted with friends and tended their pot of red chili.

“The chili is what keeps us young,” said Margo Knudson, laughing. “And it’s a great excuse to travel.”

J.R., who founded Jimboy’s Tacos in 1951 in North Lake Tahoe, was world champion in 2006. Margo won the title in 1987.

“My dad had a chili recipe and we modified it a bit,” she said.

Around the corner relaxing in the shade of another giant cottonwood tree, Carson City’s Dave Mitchell and Mike Robinson, of MJ’s Sports Bar Chili Heads, sat back and kept an eye on their pot of chili. They called it “Kickin’ Chicken” because of a very special ingredient – Wild Turkey whiskey.

For those who would like to see what the competition is all about today, there also is a craft show.

All proceeds from the cookoff will benefit the Carson City Soroptimists.