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Manteca Museum spices up history with chili competition

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Manteca Museum spices up history with chili competition

Claudia Machado and Jeanie Marsden share a laugh during the Manteca Historical Society’s chili cook-off event Thursday night at the Manteca Historical Museum.

JASON CAMPBELL/The Bulletin


POSTED January 12, 2013 1:17 a.m.

The base ingredients are always the same in Paul McJunkin’s chili.

A little bit of this. A little bit of that.

But when the pot heats up and the creative juices get flowing, all of the history that McJunkin has with his previous batches go straight out the window. He just hopes that he can remember enough of what he put into it so that he has something new to start with when he comes back to the drawing board.  

“I’ve only entered in three of these contests – the first one I took first and the second one I didn’t even place,” he said. “It’s fitting that it would work itself out like that.

“But I like doing this because I like feeding people. And if my chili will make people happen then I’ll be happy.”

On Thursday McJunkin was one of more than a dozen entrants in the Manteca Historical Society’s annual chili cook-off event at the Manteca Historical Museum.

It was the first time that he had ever been inside of the building – an experience, he said, that got him interested in joining not only the organization but possibly even becoming a docent now that he has some free time on his hands.

“I love history and I was so impressed when I got here tonight and started to look around,” he said. “I’m currently unemployed and at the beginning of seniorhood and I think it would be a great way to pass time.

“I that’s a typical experience for a lot of people – they don’t realize what’s in here until they have a reason to come.”

Off in another corner of the room Leon Sucht tasted one particular chili like it was the only one being served up. He smelled it, brought the spoon up to his lips and tasted it, and then took a full spoonful into his mouth before jotting a few notes onto a piece of paper.

As a judge he was obligated to try every one of the varieties on hand – a difficult task, he said with a smile, but one he was up for – before conferring with his fellow judges and picking a winner to crown.

But the chili, he said, served a dual purpose – also acting as a way to get people who have never before been to the museum, like McJunkin, in the door.

“It’s an event that brings in people and shows them what we have to offer here,” Sucht said. “It’s a great chance to socialize and taste some of this good chili at the same time. Who doesn’t want to do that?”

The winner of the event will have their recipe entered into the Mayor’s Committee for the Arts chili cook-off on Feb. 24 at the Manteca Senior Center.

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