By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Chili cook-off winner credits beginners luck
Chili judges, from left, Lathrop Save Mart Assistant Store Manager Bill Lopez and Lathrop Police officer Greg Mortenson react to how hot some of the entries are. - photo by HIME ROMERO
LATHROP – Community Resource Officer Andrea Lopez hadn’t even planned on entering the Lathrop Senior Center’s annual chili cook-off until she learned that there were only three people signed up.

And after the panel of judges sampled the handcrafted recipes that each of the eight contestants submitted, it was Lopez who was holding the blue ribbon and a smile from ear-to-ear that remained even as she served her award-winning fare to gracious guests.

“I have to say that this is totally beginner’s luck,” Lopez said with a laugh. “I called Vada (Klingman) last week to see how many people were signed up, and she told me that they were down so I thought that since I was coming I’d throw my hat in the ring.

“I never thought that I’d end up winning the thing.”

While Lopez admits that she loves cooking and her friends and family are always bugging her to make them pots of chili, brothers Patrick and Chuck Hoagland have made the chili cook-off circuit somewhat of a family affair over the course of the last several years.

It all started when their father wanted some help with making their chili a little bit spicier, and eventually it grew into a labor of love – prompting them to hit the circuit of tasting events held here in the valley.

And making top marks isn’t anything new for the Hoagland brothers.

Chuck was awarded the second place ribbon on Thursday for his entry – the exact place that he finished during the 30-person Manteca cook-off held last month.

Patrick says that he loves the cooking aspect of the experience and the ability to converse with others that have the same passion, and admits that when he cooks up a batch he definitely goes all out to make sure that everybody can get a taste.

“I think that when we did this one we ended up with 14 gallons – I’m going to donate the rest of that to the people at Doctors Hospital of Manteca where I work for the people who are stuck working late tonight,” he said. “But when it comes to things like this, it’s a chance to do something you love and you get to meet good people and help raise money for a good cause.

“It’s just good clean fun and there isn’t really anything bad you can say about it.”

Lathrop Deputy Greg Mortenson decided to accept a position as a judge just a few days ago – figuring that his love for spicy food and his penchant for making up a batch of his own homemade chili would be the perfect combination.

And while the individual tastes varied, Mortenson said that he enjoyed every minute of the experience and the atmosphere that the event brought to the community.

“This is the first time that I’ve ever done anything like this, but I came into it knowing that it was going to pretty much be based on personal taste – is it too spicy or is it not spicy enough,” Mortonson said. “It was definitely a great experience, and one that I’d look forward to doing again if possible.”