Blends of chili powder tickled noses and enticed Santa Clarita residents into an open space where more than 40 cooks offered an assortment of chili – each one unique in its seasonings and fillings.
The eighth annual SCV Chili Cook-Off welcomed more than 200 attendees for a night of chili, entertainment and an opportunity to donate to two “underdog” charities, feedSCV and WiSH Education Foundation, at the Hyatt Regency Valencia on Thursday evening.
“We have amazing people here that live in the Santa Clarita Valley that are philanthropists,” said Nicole Stinson, founder and chair of the Chili Cook-Off fundraiser. “I’ve never seen an area quite like Santa Clarita. We appreciate the support.”
Stinson, alongside fellow chair Steve Portaro and co-chair Dana Baker, host the Chili Cook-Off as a way to help fundraise for local charities that are still growing and becoming more known in the community.
“We take nominations of charities that people want to see benefit from it,” Stinson said. “We narrow it down, and it depends on how many nominations we get, but we usually narrow it down to three.”
Eventually, they conduct interviews with each charity to see how donations would impact these organizations and the community. This year, feedSCV and the WiSH Education Foundation were selected to be recipients and these two organizations will share the proceeds from the Chili Cook-Off.
The charities get involved in the planning and organization of the Chili Cook-Off, added Stinson.
The organization feedSCV was founded in 2015, and works to provide everyone in the SCV with the knowledge and resources to have a delicious and healthy meal at home every day. The goal is to make eating fresh, local and sustainable meals within everyone’s reach through education, awareness and intervention.
Although the WiSH Education Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to the education of students in the William S. Hart Union High School District, is well-known, Stinson said they choose to help the organization because of its ongoing efforts to help students recover from the 2019 Saugus High School shooting.
“They were looking for funds specifically for the quads in the high school (for possible mental health programs),” Stinson said. “They want to get kids back into a safe place mentally.”
Selina Thomas, a board member of the WiSH Education Foundation, said the foundation helps bridge the gap for students of the valley, and fundraisers like the cook-off are important in bringing the community back together.
“We’re seeing the fruits of our labor turn into this huge event,” Thomas said. “We know that the end game is that it is going to help our students.”
Hundreds of attendees arrived throughout the night for a good cause and to eat a wide variety of chili.
Stephanie Sewell, president of Soroptimist International of Valencia, has attended the cook-off for about five years, but this was the first time she participated as a cook.
“It’s a California black bean chili with an avocado garnish and it was made with turkey and black beans,” Sewell said. “I quadrupled my recipe for two full crock pots.”
At the end of the night, in the People’s Choice category, Scott Hoolahan placed first, Kimberly Egan placed second and Jason Jacobson placed third. In the Judges’ Choice category, Sonja Randall placed first, Scott Hoolahan placed second and Hannah Larsen placed third.
Wedemeyer Consulting Inc. was awarded with the Best Decorated Booth. Patrick and Gloria Kenney received an award for Best Costume, which was a new contest this year.
The SCV Chili Cook-Off was a success, according to Stinson.
“Over the years, it’s grown by attendance and sponsorships,” Stinson said. “People know the event now and they get excited when it comes around.”