27th annual Chili Cook-Off deemed another success


Hundreds of gallons of chili were served till sundown.

By Nora Fleming / Special to The Malibu Times

The 27th annual Chili Cook-Off and Carnival sponsored by the Kiwanis Club of Malibu brought a higher turnout than last year at what might be its last time at the large plot of land on Pacific Coast Highway between Webb Way and Civic Center Drive, which is the site for the future Legacy Park. (Last year’s event drew more than 10,000 people.) Club leaders said an increased variety in food vendors, types of chili and number of carnival rides contributed to the successful turnout.

“It was a really rewarding event [this year]. Everyone seemed to be in a good mood. I had lots of good, friendly feedback,” said Sal Cirnigliaro, Kiwanis Club president. “I’m very proud of the young people that came to the event. They were unbelievably well behaved, orderly and nice.”

Roseanne Cirnigliaro, Kiwanis Club treasurer, said she felt the event was successful, as there were no complaints about chili running out this year, a problem at other cook-offs. The only issue that came up, she said, was an event write-up in the Los Angeles Times that said the cook-off and carnival were free of charge. Some visitors came expecting not to pay for anything and were dismayed.

Dana Karney, Chili Cook-Off chairperson and Kiwanis Club member said, “We had hundreds of gallons of chili and 16 different kinds of chili to taste. We served chili till after the bands quit, and they quit at 6 p.m.”

Karney said the only change she hopes to make in the future is to add a salsa competition and give an award to the most festive and best decorated booth.

Awards were presented both Saturday and Sunday for People’s Choice, or the booth that sold the highest amount of chili, and Malibu’s Favorite, or the chili that was ranked highest by a team of judges.

Eight judges judged booths on Saturday and 13 judged on Sunday. (Due to restrictive rules regarding ingredients and the amount that could be made, which limited local participation and left hungry attendees without chili in years past, the International Chili Society no longer judges the contests.)

Richard Foster and John Kovin of Chili Addiction won the People’s Choice Award both Saturday and Sunday. On Saturday, Russell Harvey of Casa Escobar took the Malibu’s Favorite Award, and on Sunday, Alex Rylance of the Malibu Rugby Club took the Favorite Award.

Harvey was also given a Community Service Award for longtime commitment to the cook-off. Karney said Harvey has donated the proceeds from the sale of his chili to the club for the past several years.

This was Chili Addiction’s first year at the Cook-Off. Kovin and Foster started the company, which caters events and private parties, just two months ago and heard about the cook-off through word of mouth.

Chef Kovin prepared six types of chili for the event, but said he has more than 60 recipes and typically picks the recipes for various events based on customer preferences.

Kovin said he started making a variety of chili when he was roughly seven years old, when he started reading cookbooks and watching cooking shows on TV. Working in his family jewelry business for years, Kovin maintained his passion for cooking until he decided to start Chili Addiction with Foster.

The team plans to start selling chili at the Hollywood Farmer’s Market this fall and possibly open a restaurant in a year. Kovin said the long lines at their booth and success of Chili Addiction’s fare amazed him.

Chris Catlin, a Malibu resident, won the 2008 Porsche Cayman from Beverly Hills Porsche, raffled off at the event.

“Kiwanis is a great group. It’s like a mutual fund, spreading funds to charities all over Malibu,” Catlin said. “I’m so unbelievably excited. I’ve bought tickets for 15 years in Malibu and never expected to win, let alone a brand new red Porsche. It’s really quite a dream.”

Plans for next year’s carnival are already being discussed, as the club will most likely not be able to use the Civic Center area due to the upcoming construction on Legacy Park. Cirnigliaro said the club is in the process of talking to City Hall about the event’s future.

“You can’t close down the community,” said Cirnigliaro, who added that other Malibu clubs are facing some of the same concerns for their events. “It’s a matter of trying to figure out how to do it. People will work with it and come up ideas. The club will sit down with local politicians and figure it out.

“The Malibu Chili Cook-Off is a mainstay in the community,” he continued. “The local charities revolve around it. [Though] the population changes, it gets bigger and younger, people still want this event. Their children love it. It’s like a grand finale to the summer.”