Serious chili chefs from California, Nevada, Colorado, and beyond will be cooking up some competition in Ahwatukee March 10-11, and the Ahwatukee Board of Management (ABM) is inviting local chefs to get in on the action.

This is the eighth year ABM will host its Chili Cook-Off, which will include a kids zone with bounce houses, rides and games, and a craft fair for those interested in doing some shopping. But, make no mistake, the main event is the chili.

The cook-off is sanctioned by the International Chili Society (ICS) so all who enter must become a member of the ICS. The entry fee into the competition will be waved for first-time cooks, said Susan Hyden, community center director, because there is a fee to join the ICS.

Hyden, who is a member of the ICS herself, says the competition is pretty serious, but lots of fun. They usually have between 20 and 25 cooks each year and more than 1,000 spectators. In the past they've had only about four local cooks try to take the prize, and she'd like to see more come from Ahwatukee.

"Once you get involved you get hooked," Hyden said. "It is fun and the people are fun to be around. It's friendly competition and everyone helps each other out. It's not a cut-throat kind of thing."

Members of the ICS can travel all over to compete in chili and salsa competitions. Hyden said she has never competed out of state, but she took first place for her salsa in Flagstaff last year.

This year chili cooks must be registered by March 3. The competition is for red chili, green chili and salsa. First place for red chili will win $500. Second place will take $150, and third will win $75.

First place in green chili will win $150. Second will take $75, and third will take a trophy. First place in salsa will win $75, while second and third will both win trophies.

Spectators to the event will also be able to purchase a $5 tasting kit and try seven different chili creations. A People's Choice award will be voted on by spectators and the winner will take home $50.

Cooks must be 18 years or older and, according to official ICS rules, no beans or pasta are allowed in the chili.

Hyden said ABM is also in need of people willing to be judges for the competition and vendors for the craft fair.

For more information on the competition, or to sign up to cook, contact the Ahwatukee Community Swim & Tennis Center at (480) 893-3431 or http://www.ahwatukeehoa.com.

• Contact writer: (480) 898-7914 or ahurtado@ahwatukee.com

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