Teditorial: Underdogs take titles in chili cook-off

First-time competitor, Bogart’s Coffee House, pictured below, took home first place in the People’s Choice voting. Nearly 20 restaurants and businesses participated as contestants in the event. Photo by Ted Apodaca

If you love a story of underdogs who find a way to triumph against odds, you had to love the Devour: Old Town Chili Cook-off on Saturday. Among the field of top-shelf restaurants in Seal Beach, the heavy hitters, if you will, there were two upstarts who climbed their way to the top of the balloting.

Clancy’s took the top prize in the Judges Panel voting as the Devour Chili Champion for 2020. Meanwhile, Bogart’s Coffee House, with their first-time entry into the field, captured first place in the People’s Choice voting. Both teams erupted in cheer upon hearing their names called during the award ceremony.

Clancy’s chili chef Randy Hayes said after winning the people’s choice vote last year, he felt like they had a good read on what might keep them in the running again this year. He said last year they went with a no bean chili and got the impression judges favored chili with beans. He didn’t want to go too heavy on beans but made sure they were added this year.

Hayes, who said he only makes chili for himself about once a year, said he made sure to do several trial runs prior to the event this year. He also tried several spice combinations before finding the one he liked.

“I’d been practicing for about three weeks,” Hayes said.

His prep chef support was Rusty and Joey, who helped him with prep work and testing. And he took his time on the final product.

“I cooked that chili for probably, 36 hours,” Hayes said.

Second and third in the judges voting went to Catrina Café and The Hangout, respectively. In the people’s vote, second went to Clancy’s and third went to Beachwood BBQ. For the record, my lone vote went to Bogarts. All of the chilis were good, and there were some unique recipes.

Clancy’s was a more traditional chili, with a good balance of spice. It was voted “hottest chili” as well, but the hot was not overwhelming at all.

Bogart’s owner JoAnn Adams was encouraged by her friend Stacey Espinosa to enter the competition and offered to help. Adams said they knew there were good chilis in the event, but was encouraged as they developed a recipe.

“We did not expect to win, but we were hopeful that we had a contender,” Adams said.

Bogarts used organic New Mexico Chili and of course coffee was added to the recipe. They also used a cilantro aioli topping that was a great compliment to the chili. Adams also noted that she met and talked with people who had never been in Bogart’s and said she enjoyed meeting new residents and visitors.

“It was such a fun day,” Adams said.

The Judges panel votes in a blind taste test. This year’s panel included Chamber President Kori Deleon, Lions Club member Ray Longoria, Sun Publisher Steven Remery, Scott Levitt of Levitt Law, Seal Beach Police representatives Bruno Balderamma and Victor Ruiz and Master Chef Mathieu Royer.

They had chili delivered, identified only by numbers. Competitors were told that they would also be judged on a scale of five, based on presentation of their chili platters. Three competitors received fives across the board: The Irisher, Clancy’s and Hawaiian Grill. Event coordinator Rosie Ritchie said that the event took a lot of work from a lot of volunteers, but was happy with the participation of competitors and voters.

“I enjoy seeing the excitement as the chefs carefully pick their recipe, they start preparing days before the event slow cooking their ingredients. So many different flavors are brought in from beef, pork, chorizo to even fish in the recipes. Can’t wait to see what everybody brings next year. Thank you, Seal Beach for making it a successful event,” Event Coordinator Rosie Ritchie said in a statement.

Ted Apodaca is the editor of the Sun News and Catalina Islander. He can be reached at editor@sunnews.org, or 562-317-1100. Follow him on Instagram: @tedapodaca