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October 02. 2011 10:08PM

Californians win the day at World Chili Cook-Off


John Jepson, left, of Merced, Calif., looks toward his wife, Dora, after winning the World Championship Chili Cook-Off as Mayor Ted Gatsas presents Jepson’s prize of $25,000 Sunday in Manchester. (Mark Bolton/Union Leader)

Dan Dussault of Nashua takes a bite of chili at the World Championship Chili Cook-Off Sunday in Manchester. (Mark Bolton/Union Leader)

Colleen Harbor, left, of Corona, Calif., offers a chili sample to Amanda Cleary, center, and Jessica Downing, both of Manchester, as Harbor's dad, Charles, inside left, looks on. (Mark Bolton/Union Leader)
MANCHESTER — Several thousand people sampled and voted for their favorite red chili recipe at the conclusion of the three-day 2011 World’s Championship Chili Cook-Off.

For a region better known for baked beans, fish chowder and Yankee pot roast, chili cooks from across the country and Canada said they were pleased for the enthusiasm shown for their sizzling wares.

“It’s been awesome. The city has been great to us,” said Chris Everhart, owner of Colorado Chili Cowboy, which last year won the People’s Choice Award. “We hope to get it again.”

Everhart was among 137 cooks competing in Sunday’s red chili cook-off and the $25,000 prize money. The People’s Choice Award winner got a $6,000 check.

Chili cooks spread out across Veterans Park, cooking up special recipes with sinister names. Mike’s Killer Chili, Bad Bandito Chile, R.I.P. Chili, The Alabama Chill-Billies and Bun Burner Chili.

And then there Horny Toad Chili. What’s up with that name?

“If I told you, you couldn’t print it,” said owner Red Brecke of San Diego, Calif.

He relented. “The secret ingredient is an aphrodisiac,” Brecke said.

Brecke also held out high hopes his team would win the grand prize.

“We do it for the fun of it. It’s a hobby we’ve been doing about 28 years,” he said.

An estimated 12,000 to 13,000 attended this year’s three-day cook-off. The event drew an estimated 25,000 when it made it debut in Manchester last year.

Organizers blamed rain, particularly Saturday’s downpours.

“The weather definitely had an impact on overall attendance,” explained Chris Wellington, marketing specialist with the city of Manchester’s economic development officer.

“It didn’t kill the spirit of the event,” he added.

There were 137 red chili cooks competing Sunday, with about 200 people judging them, said Carol Hancock, owner and chief executive officer of the International Chili Society from San Juan Capistrano, Calif,

She said this is the 45th anniversary of the World Championship Chili Cook-Off. In that time, the cook-off has raised more than $90 million for charities. She said all proceeds from Manchester’s event would go to charities.

This year’s Best Restaurant winner went to 900 Degrees in Manchester.

The Red Chili Winner was John Jepson of Merced, Calif. The People’s Choice Winner was Charlie Harber of Corona, Calif. The Salsa winner, who received $1,000, was Tish Crawford of California and the Chili Verde winner, who received $4,000, was Gary Ray of Michigan.

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