Some of the best chili chefs in Ahwatukee and around the West have a two-day eating binge in store for you as the Ahwatukee Community Swim & Tennis Center hosts its 15th annual Chili Cook Off Festival.
Admission is free to the festival at Ahwatukee Park, 4700 E. Warner Road, where the fun begins 4-9 p.m. Friday, March 8, and rides and inflatables will be provided by Kastl Amusements, which will sell tickets for individual rides as well as wristbands for unlimited ones. Hours for Saturday are 10 a.m.-9 p.m. and Sunday 10 a.m.-6 p.m.
Community center Director Susan Hyden calls the cookoff Saturday and Sunday “one of our hottest events of the year with diverse recipes from across the region.”
“Cooks from all over the country travel here to compete for the cash prizes and their chance to qualify to compete at the International Chili Society World Championships,” she said, adding that shouldn’t scare off amateurs who can compete and join foodies who “love to cook, share their cooking tips and above all, have a great time.”
The cookoffs are sanctioned by the International Chili Society and date back to 1967 when some friends started a friendly chili competition in Terlinqua, Texas.
“They all had one thing in common – each thought he made the best chili and he knew more about chili than anyone else,” Hyden said. “The ICS continues to uphold the same core values of their founders by bringing people together to enjoy healthy competition and America’s great culinary creation. Their mission is to continuously improve chili while raising money for charities and nonprofits year-round.”
The ICS cookoffs at the Swim & Tennis Center will benefit the 100 Club of Arizona and the Ahwatukee Little League.
For cooks in the mood to strut their beans, the fee is $10 for the ICS Membership and entry fees range from $15 to $35.
The competition categories are traditional Red Chili, Chili Verde, Homestyle Chili and Vegetarian Chili, a new category this year. There is also a division for cooks under 18 who will compete with traditional red chili only on Saturday.
Prizes range from $75 to $500, depending on the category. The first place winners in each category on each day qualifies them to compete at the ICS World Championships in October. Prize money at the world competition is up to $25,000.
If you’re just a fan of chili, the festival has something for you, too.
Chili tasting kits are $6 and include seven sample cups. Chili tasting is 11:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Sunday. Cooks start at 8 a.m. and awards are announced around 4 p.m.
The festival will feature other food, beer, wine and music by Swains World on Saturday, 2-5 p.m. Parking is free.
“This is a great event for younger folks who love to cook and be a part of friendly competition,” Hyden said. “This is truly an event that the entire family can participate in.”
Information: 480-893-3431 or firstname.lastname@example.org