Wake up those taste buds at Fun in the Sun chili cook-off

Christina Ramirez, left, and Sherif Morisi dressed in Egyptian garb call to passers-by to try their King Tut's Chili during the L.A. County Sheriff's Fun in the Sun Chili Cook-off held in Castaic on Saturday, October 20, 2018. (Photo by Dan Watson)

The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department held the 14th annual Fun in the Sun chili cook-off at the Jack Bones Equestrian Center on Saturday.

After taking the bus ride from the parking lot to the cook-off, visitors had the chance to sample chili from 27 booths made by law enforcement officials from all across southern California.

With a tasting card and tickets in hand, taste testers marked down booths which they felt ought to win as grandmaster.

“So each of our units come out and they make 20 gallons of chili and they theme a booth however they want. They name their chili and serve it,” said LA County deputy Holly Gruppie, who helped organize the event’s festivities.

Proceeds from the cook-off go toward the Special Olympics Santa Clarita/Tri-Valley Region, a relationship the sheriff’s department has had for several decades and has spread to other fundraising events, including the Law Enforcement Torch Run.

“Anything we can do to help out the special olympics, we have a long tradition of that,” said Dave Petrocelli, operations lieutenant at Century Regional Detention Facility, or CRDF. “You know, there’s a lot of other groups we help out, but this one is kind of near and dear to our hearts.”

Running “King Tut’s Chili,” attendees were given a chili sample made from smoked tri tip, garbanzo beans and Middle Eastern flavors, Petrocelli said. The circumstances behind the theme and chili flavor originated from their lead cook, who happens to be Egyptian, he said. With its unfamiliar spices, this chili was selected over several other samples tasted among the officers.

Nearby, one of two dinosaur-themed stands handed out its own beef and pork sausage chili. Run by deputy sheriff Eric Gunn of Twin Towers Correctional Facility, the idea originated from a trip to Hawaii last year where he and his family came across the on-location filming of “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom.” Naming their stand after the movie, it took two days to prepare the chili.

“It’s a lot of work, but I love it,” Gunn said.

Across the way, deputies with the East Los Angeles made their chili from several exotic peppers from farms near Cal Poly Pomona, along with Apache chili peppers grown at deputy Chris Moore’s home.

Chris Moore uses an electric drill to stir a 20 gallon pot of East L.A. Chili during the L.A. County Sheriff’s Fun in the Sun Chili Cook-off held in Castaic on Saturday, October 20, 2018. (Photo by Dan Watson)

“Everyone comes to ours and says, ‘Hey, we heard you have the spiciest chili here, we got to give it a shot,’” he said. “And we’ve been having a blast watching people’s reaction to how much spicier our chili is than they expected.”

The winners of this year’s Fun in the Sun chilli cook-off included:

  • Grandmaster – LASD Homicide Bureau
  • Judges Choice First Place – American Legion 309
  • Hottest Chili First Place – Inmate Reception Center
  • People’s Choice First Place – California Highway Patrol Newhall Division
  • Best Theme First Place – North County Correctional Facility
  • Most Spirited First Place – CRDF

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