A World Champion and International Champion chili cook will be returning to his old stomping grounds in Ahwatukee this weekend as chief judge of the Ninth Annual Chili Cookoff and Carnival.
Plager qualified for the International Chili Society’s World Championship Chili Cookoff during last year’s cook off in Ahwatukee, but he’s no stranger to winning.
He’s been competing in cookoffs since 1980 and has won plenty of first place prizes along with his wife of eight years, Kathy, who he met at a chili cookoff.
Because of his most recent win Plager cannot compete for an entire year, so instead he’s traveling to chili cookoffs to guide other cooks and share some of his secrets to success with visitors at the cookoffs.
“It’s a very fun event,” Plager said. “A lot of good cooks will be coming out.”
As chief judge, Plager will help oversee the cooks and the judges tasting the chili and will keep track of scores. Plager said when he judges he looks for a good combination of meat and sauce that looks good and tastes good.
The Chili Cookoff at the Ahwatukee Swim and Tennis Center is a serious competition, sanctioned by the International Chili Society. Cooks from Colorado, California, Texas, Nevada, Michigan and Arizona are expected to cook up red and green chili and salsa during two days of competition this Saturday, March 9, and Sunday, March 10. Susan Hyden, community center director, said there will be 30 cooks competing this year, the most there has ever been.
Visitors can purchase tasting kits for $5 and taste seven different chilis. Those guests will be asked to vote on the best chili for the “People’s Choice” award. Winners from each category will receive prizes and trophies.
The whole event takes place inside a carnival, which will start at 5 p.m. on Friday, March 8 and will go until 9 p.m. Visitors can buy wristbands for $20 presale or $25 the day of the event for unlimited rides. Without a wristband, tickets are $1 and rides will cost an average of five tickets.
The carnival will continue on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. with the chili cookoff happening from 12:30 to 4:30 p.m. On Saturday A Boy Named Sioux will perform from 1 to 3 p.m. Guests will be asked to pay a $5 cover charge to enter the carnival after 5 p.m. when Chuck E. Baby will perform until 7:30 p.m.
On Sunday guests can enjoy the Ahwatukee Farmer’s Market just outside the carnival, which will continue from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. The cookoff on Sunday will take place from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Throughout the weekend there will be beer, wine and plenty of food choices, Hyden said.
The Swim and Tennis Center is located at 4700 E. Warner Road. For more information, call (480) 893-3431.
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