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Extra hot time helps 2nd Harvest Food Bank
Chili cook-off judge Kirk Dahl reacts to something his co-judges said just before the judging at the Manteca Senior Center. - photo by ROSE ALBANO RISSO
If you think Saturday’s 104 degrees was hot, think again.

The real heat was inside the Manteca Senior Center where culinary temperatures, along with a huge throng of chili fans, all conspired to rival Mother Nature’s summer sizzle.

The 30 palate-pleasing, mouth-watering and tear-jerking chili concoctions were the afternoon’s major attraction. And it was all for a good cause, with the Second Harvest Food Bank of Manteca as the beneficiary of the day’s financial haul. The total money raised from this first-ever fund-raiser for the nonprofit organization was not available as of press time. However, the evening’s excitement rose to the nth degree with the announcement that PG&E pledged to donate a $10 match for every ticket drawing sold.

Between the cook-off entrants and the taste-testers, it was hard to tell which group was more excited. To be sure, the cooks had a smorgasbord of fun. The Brotherhood Team – that’s the Lathrop-Manteca Fire Union group – represented by Kevin Anderson and Shawn Wooten brought to the competition one of the hottest, if not the hottest dish of the day. Mixed in with their 12 pounds of ground beef, beans and spice blend were four different kinds of peppers: 40 habaneros, 15 Anaheims, 12 chipotle, and 12 guallio (pronounced wah-hee-yoh).

“I’ve used this recipe for the past four years at the Lathrop Days and Pumpkin Fair. I’ve also used it for the K-9 trials when they asked us to cook,” said Anderson.

Manteca City Councilman Steve DeBrum’s chili dish was an original creation with the base recipe pulled off out of a cookbook. Another contestant’s dish was a blend of six different recipes he pulled from the Internet combined together.

But Joann Beattie of Agape Villages had, perhaps, the day’s easiest recipe.

“I don’t have a recipe,” she laughed when asked about her chili creation.

“I just throw everything in. I don’t measure anything,” she said with relish.

The youngest taste-testers were not even old enough to walk or run. Cashton Mooney, 21 months, enjoyed the non-spicy dishes. He was accompanied to the event by her parents, Kim and Richard of Modesto. They attended the event to cheer for Debbie Tarr, owner of Grocery Outlet of Manteca where Kim Mooney works.

Another young guest was Ava Beth Benneth, 18 months, who came to cook-off with her parents and grandma Helen Bennett and brother Liam, 2. Grandmother Bennett said they found out about the chili-cooking fest from their church, Crossroads Grace Community.

“We wanted to come and support (the fund-raiser) and have fun,” she said.

Each entry was numbered according to its degree of spiciness. The Brotherhood Team’s dish burned its way up the spicy totem pole.

“It’s really hot. Pretty good but really hot,” pronounced taste-tester Marco Getty who was part of the Thor’s Chili group. “If you like hot stuff, this is pretty good.”

Three cash prizes were given away to the top three contestants: $75, $150 and $300, for third to first prizes, respectively.

Judges were Theresa English-Soto, Jeff Zellner, Connie Reed, Kirk Dahl, and Veronica DeBrum.

Other highlights of the chili cook-off were a silent auction, raffle drawing with many big-ticket items given away to lucky winners, and a bake sale sponsored by a group of Dell Webb residents who also volunteered their services during the event by selling raffle tickets to the visitors.