Malibu Chili Cook-Off brightens up Labor Day weekend

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Molly Scott, Dan Morales, Kasey Earnest, and Ashley Kernes. Photo by Samantha Bravo/TMT

Chili competition, skate competition, and abundance of vendors and artisans part of annual event

Thousands of families enjoyed hours of carnival rides, bowls of award-winning chili, and live music for the 41st Annual Malibu Chili Cook-Off over this Labor Day weekend. 

The highly anticipated four-day summer event brought together friends, families, local businesses, and restaurants for a weekend of fun and food.

The fair kicked off on Friday night, also known as Locals’ Night, continued with the chili competition on Saturday, the 4th Annual Johnny Strange Legacy Skate Competition Sunday, and Family Day on Monday, Sept. 4, where tickets were $20. 

Some of the chili vendors that returned were Dukes and Beyond Meat. Food trucks offered a variety of carnival foods, such as ice cream, corn dogs, chili fries, and funnel cakes. One of the newest restaurants coming to Malibu Park at Cross Creek, Irv’s Burger and Prince Street Pizza, also participated in the festivities and even won second place for their chili. 

This year’s champions were Universal Music Group for first place in the meat category and peoples choice, and Duke’s Malibu with the first place in the veggie category.

Chili chefs competing included Dan Morales of Universal Music Group, who went up to the podium to receive the award and said the event was all about family and community.

“The Boys & Girls Club means a lot to the community, we’re so happy to do it every year, 100 percent of the proceeds go to the charity,” Morales said. “Come buy more chili.”

The competition attracted both pro and amateur chefs to enter and featured a wide range of chili entries — from meat-based to vegan chilis and Texas-inspired chili to Afro-Latin and Asian-inspired recipes. 

Chili chefs competing included Dan Morales of Universal Music Group, Diana Stravaridis of Beyond Meat, Alex Rylance of Stoner House Farms, Darrell Gillcrese of Mestico, Lisa McCullough-Roark of Topanga Grain Company, Armen Piskoulian of Irv’s Burgers, Mario Lopez of Green Truck, along with chefs from Duke’s Malibu.

Renowned judges included co-host of Food Network’s The Grill Dads Ryan Fey, celebrity chef Jet Tila, Top Chef alum Marcel Vigneron, KCRW’s Good Food host Evan Kleiman, Chris Thompkins of Broad Street Oyster Co., founder of The Infatuation and EEEEEATSCON Chris Stang, Conscious City Guide founder Mel Nahas, and more.

Partners and sponsors included The Malibu Times, Barefoot Dreams, Alphapals, Bright Event Rentals, Universal Music Group, Aviator Nation, Havaianas, Outerknown, Rancho West Beer, Summer Somewhere Wines, Flying Embers, Open Water, and Optimist Drinks, along with the event’s newest partners California Naturals, Malibu Brewing Co, Known Supply, LaCroix, Bones Love Milk, State Farm/Efrain Cazares, and more.

All proceeds from this competition benefited the Boys & Girls Club of Malibu and its year-long services for youth and the community at large.

The event is also enacted a new chaperone policy to ensure the safety of all guests. Any guests under the age of 18 were unable to enter without a chaperone. Chaperones must be 21 years of age and older and may chaperone up to five guests.

The event redesignated the junior carnival rides into their own space for parents with small children ages 2-10. Activities for kids were available, including the return of the 24-foot-high rock climbing wall presented by Alphapals.

Adults who attended also enjoyed the Barefoot Dreams Lounge, a cozy-chic oasis where beer and local wine varieties were served. 

Nearly 20 vendors and artists had tents and tables on display at the festival, such as jewelry, curated clothing, handcrafted candles, and niche fragrances. 

27 Malibu Chili Cook Off 2023 SamBravo 1
Nearly 20 vendors and artists had tents and tables on display at the festival, such as jewelry, curated clothing, handcrafted candles, and niche fragrances. Photo by Samantha Bravo/TMT,

On Sunday, the event included the 4th Annual Johnny Strange Legacy Skate Competition. The event included jam-session-style competitions for intermediate and advanced competitors of all ages and genders, with cash prizes awarded to the winners. The Bones Love Milk Skateboard Mini Ramp, offered public skate and practice sessions opportunities for those eager to refine their skateboarding skills. 

Skateboarder and filmmaker Vern Laird was on the mic introducing the skaters and giving out prize money to participants who were shredding tricks on the ramp.

“[Strange] was inspired by the world around him — nature, culture, sport, especially this sport we all love, skateboarding, that’s why we are all here right now in this moment,” Laird said. “He used his opportunities to do good.” 

Johnny Strange was an adventure seeker deep in his heart. He was the youngest to climb all seven peaks at the age of 17. The Johnny Strange Legacy Program is a beacon program for the Boys & Girls Club of Malibu, focusing on skateboarding and the lifestyle to help teens transcend any real or imagined barriers. The program helps support skateboarding lessons, maintenance and upkeep of the ramp and inspirational speakers who also share Johnny’s passion.

On Sunday, nearly 15 kids and over 25 advanced skaters participated in this year’s competition. 

Strange’s family also attended the event to see the participants compete for prizes. 

Boys & Girls Club of Malibu Chief Executive Officer Kasey Earnest said they were surprised to see many participants in this year’s competition. 

“Today was really awesome; for us; it was honoring the life of Johnny Strange, who was beloved to us and the community and, moreover inspiring so many next-generation kids to get out and find their flow and do what they love, and Johnny loved skating, he loved moving and this is a way we can honor him,” Earnest said. “We had Malibu kids skating and competing today with pro’s and the big dogs, so it was really fun.”

Earnest said she was happy to see chefs return to compete at the cook-off this year. 

“The chili competition was super fun this year, it makes me happy that were getting chili chefs competitors that are coming back because they love this event and they love donating to the Boys & Girls Club, they’re having a blast and we’re benefiting from their hard work and generosity,” Earnest said. “It’s been a wonderful event, honestly for me it’s been so much work but it’s been a pleasure to walk around and see people smiling and having fun and meeting up with friends and family, that’s what the cook-out is about.”

The article was updated to correct the winners of the Chili cook-off.