Chili goes quickly, but annual event still has its thrills

This year's Chili Cook-Off was not an International Chili Society-sanctioned event, therefore two local chili awards were given: People's Choice and Malibu's Favorite. Pictured from left: Kiwanis Chili Chairperson Dana Karney; Greg Horton, People's Choice chili winner; Anthony Smith and Amy Stone, Malibu's Favorite chili winners; and chili judge Robert Cash. Photo by Janet Laird / TMT

Only six competitors took part in this year’s Chili Cook-Off, sponsored by Malibu Kiwanis. A couple from San Marino win the grand prize raffle of a 2007 Porsche Cayman. G & G Motorsports wins the People’s Choice chili award.

By Melonie Magruder / Special to The Malibu Times

The 26th annual Chili Cook-Off might have proven that one actually can have too much of a good thing. By mid-afternoon on Saturday, all six competing chili vendors had completely run out of chili.

“I’m sorry,” Peter Tulaney, head chef at the Malibu Knights Rugby & Football Club booth, said. “We ran out of chili by one o’clock today. There’s not even a scraping left in the pots.”

Tulaney, who is also the co-coach of the Pepperdine rugby team when he’s not cooking up chili, said two of the six vendors had already washed their pots and gone home by 3 p.m. on Saturday.

The number of contestants was a radical decrease from last year. One reason for that was because this year’s competition is no longer an International Chili Society-sponsored event. Also, because of the heat, several would-be contestants decided this was just not the right time for a hot and spicy treat.

“We took the advice of the [Malibu] Kiwanis [the event sponsor] and only prepared about seven gallons of chili for today,” Tulaney said. “We could have served 10 times that.”

A chili-less pot notwithstanding, Tulaney was eager to promote the virtues of his vegetarian “smooth” chili. “We start with a great, solid chili broth and use tomatoes and Mission figs,” he explained. “But the secret is in the chocolate chips.”

Tulaney was also serving some home-grown salsa “all with vegetables from our garden,” he said.

Michael Orloff had been serving up the Olivet Foursquare Church’s special ostrich chili before their pots ran dry. “We were out by around noon today,” he said.

Ostrich meat is an excellent base for chili, Orloff claimed. “It’s very lean and healthy with no cholesterol, as well as being tasty,” he said. They offered two versions: spicy and less spicy.

“I don’t have even a spoonful left to offer,” Orloff apologized. “Hey, we might be all out of chili, but we still have plenty of spiritual food left!”

Greg Horton, at the G & G Motorsports booth, had a similar tale. “I ran through 80 gallons of chili by 2 o’clock today,” he said. “That was supposed to last the whole weekend. I’ll be up all night cooking.”

Horton won the People’s Choice Award this year, his third win in a row.

His secret: “We use jalapeno chilies, but the secret is in the garlic and ginger.

“She’s going to print that now,” his cooking partner, Tony Smith, said. “It won’t be a secret for next year.”

“You’re cooking next year,” Horton retorted.

Miraculously, they were able to find four tablespoons of their award-winning chili still buried in a 10-gallon pot and, indeed, it was rich and flavorful, with a potent nip to it.

Proceeds from G & G Motorsports’ chili benefit the Step Up on 2nd organization, a full-service mental health facility located in Santa Monica.

“I’m real sorry,” Horton said to the half dozen hungry Cook-Off visitors who approached his booth. “We’re all out. Check with us tomorrow.”

The scarcity of available chili seemed puzzling, but Horton pointed out that there were only six vendors offering chili this year, whereas in the past there have been considerably more.

Ray Miller, one of the Kiwanis Chili Cook-Off organizers said several chili cooks bowed out last minute because of the heat.

The dearth of chili didn’t seem to deter too many visitors who strolled the grounds of Legacy Park, munching on funnel cakes and entering the Kiwanis’ sponsored drawing for a free sports car.

A lively band called Kelly’s Lot kicked through a two-hour-plus set on the festival stage, with their lead singer offering a Janis Joplin-inspired take on blues and rockabilly.

But the real draw for their band was 80-year-old Eddie Theriault, who played the spoons with an animated brio that defied his age.

“Oh, I feel about half my age when I’m playing,” he said. “No more than 45 or 50!”

Theriault grew up in Boston and has been playing the spoons since he was six years old. To play the spoons well, he said, “You got to love music. Jazz, blues, all of it. I just jump on the tempo and go with it. And if the audience is happy, I’m happy. See? I’m ecstatic!”

Around 5:30 p.m., the winners of the Chili Cook-Off were announced and Horton made his way to the stage to accept a plaque and a $200 prize. He didn’t have to leave.

“And the Grand Prize, ‘Malibu’s Favorite’ for the 2007 Malibu Chili Cook-Off… goes to G & G Motorsports!”

Amy Stone and Anthony Smith of G & G Motorsports shared the Malibu Favorite Award.

Reminded of his promise of chili for the morrow, Horton acknowledged he would be busy Saturday night. “Hey, it’s only one weekend a year and for a really good cause,” he said. “I can make the effort.”

Stanley and Dorothy Johnson of San Marino were the winners of the Chili Cook-Off raffle grand prize-a 2007 Porsche Cayman. The runner-up prize, four roundtrip tickets to anywhere in the continental U.S. from American Airlines, went to Steve Wells.

The Cayman was such a draw, next year’s raffle of a 2008 version has already sold 15 tickets at $100 apiece.