Seventh annual SCV Charity Chili Cook-Off a spicy success

From left, Julie Susdorf, Blair Sanders, Ariel Matthews and Bree Chavez stir their "Fancy Feast" chili at the Santa Clarita Valley 7th Annual Charity Chili Cookoff held at The Oaks Club in Valencia on Thursday. Dan Watson/The Signal

The Oaks Club in Valencia was filled to the brim with chili and live music on Thursday evening for the 7th annual SCV Charity Chili Cook-Off.

With 44 chili cooks and the venue at capacity, this was one of the cook-off’s biggest turnouts yet.

Founder Nicole Stinson created this charity event in 2012 as a way to raise money for the “underdog” charities in the Santa Clarita Valley that typically don’t receive as much support because they aren’t as well-known.

“We love this event because it brings families and business out and creates a casual environment that is fun while raising awareness for the small charities we try and select each year,” Stinson said.

Channi Kaur, left, serves her 2018 award winning “Chicken Masala Chili” to Christina Winters, and Jeni Brown at the Santa Clarita Valley 7th Annual Charity Chili Cookoff held at The Oaks Club in Valencia on Thursday. Dan Watson/The Signal

This year, Stinson wanted to support local animal rescues, so the Lange Foundation’s St. Bonnie’s Sanctuary and the Shelter Hope Pet Shop were selected to receive all of the proceeds from the cook-off.

“Every year, the SCV Charity Chili Cook-Off gets bigger and more popular,” said Steve Portaro, the event’s co-chair. “This year, we’re hoping to make a significant contribution to both animal rescues.”

St. Bonnie’s Sanctuary was opened in 2007 by the Lange Foundation to rescue dogs and cats, as well as horses, from Los Angeles County animal shelters.

“Most of the animals we rescue are (on) the euthanasia list, so we’re their last chance,” said kennel manager Brandon Hawke. “A lot of the animals we take are pregnant, need surgeries or medical care of some sort, or are moms with kittens.”

Once they are healthy, most of the animals are found new homes, but those who aren’t remain at the sanctuary for life. St. Bonnie’s also stands behind these animals for life, so if the animal is ever in need of another home, they take them back, Hawke said.

Volunteers from left, Kim Goldstein, Cindy Tosten and Taylor Dice, 11, hold adoptable dogs at the Shelter Hope Pet Shop booth at the Santa Clarita Valley 7th Annual Charity Chili Cookoff held at The Oaks Club in Valencia on Thursday. Dan Watson/The Signal

Shelter Hope Pet Shop is unique  — their goal is to replace all of the puppy mill pet shops in malls with actual shelters, according to Dani Caouette, owner of the Santa Clarita Shelter Hope Pet Shop.

Due to the heavy foot traffic a mall shop receives, the animals are seen more frequently, but it also presents a lot of challenges not typical to shelters, Caouette said. This also means that the shelter has to ensure their animals are healthy and even gets them groomed.

“This is one of the biggest fundraisers we’ve ever had to date, and this is going to do so much for our pets,” Caouette said. “This is going to help us save over a thousand more animals.”

Their Santa Clarita location is about to celebrate its fourth anniversary in April, and in that short amount of time, they’ve been able to rescue 1,030 animals.

“The funds will help save many animals lives by rescuing them from kill shelters and covering surgeries and medical expenses that they are in need of,” Stinson said.

The cook-off included a live band, silent auction, kids’ corner, vendors, drinks and enough chili to satisfy everyone’s chili craving.

Judges Sean Malin, left, and Karen Halligan sample the chili entries at the Santa Clarita Valley 7th Annual Charity Chili Cookoff held at The Oaks Club in Valencia on Thursday. Dan Watson/The Signal

Heat is on judges

The heat was on as a panel of celebrity judges crowned chili makers with first-, second- and third-place honors, as well as people’s choice and best decorated booth.

Sonja Randall was degrees above the rest with her “Smokin’ Bar-B-Quties” chili. She has placed at nearly every year’s cook-off and this year, won both first place in judge’s choice and second in people’s choice.

Judge’s Choice Winners:

1st – Sonja Randall – Smokin’ Bar-B-Quties

2nd – Channi Kaur – Channis Kitchen

3rd – Travis Sabadin – Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station

People’s Choice Winners:

1st – Mark and Dorian – JohnHart Real Estate

2nd – Sonja Randall – Smokin’ Bar-B-Quties

3rd – Kimberly Egan – DSJ Office Services

Best Decorated Booth Winner:

  • Nina Bentson – Los Angeles Unified School District

To learn more about the annual SCV Charity Chili Cook-Off or either of the animal rescues, visit https://scvcharitychilicookoff.com/.

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About the author

Emily Alvarenga

Emily Alvarenga

Emily Alvarenga covers features and community for The Signal. She's new to the paper and Santa Clarita, but hasn't moved far from her hometown of Temecula, California. Emily graduated from San Diego State University in 2017 and has been writing and reporting since high school.