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October 23, 2013

Bring Your Appetite to the 4th Annual Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk Chili Cook-Off

With the weather still thinking it's summer in Santa Cruz, we must turn to other signs that fall is in the air. The monarchs returning to Natural Bridges is a good indicator, and this weekend is the 4th Annual Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk Chili Cook-Off. Nothing says fall like a hearty bowl of chili with all the fixin's. Photo courtesy: Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk Photo courtesy: Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk The chili cook-off invites professional and amateur cooks to compete for the title and bragging rights of "Best Chili" in both meat and vegetarian categories. Competing for the first time this year is Solaire, the in-hotel restaurant at Hotel Paradox, Santa Cruz's newest--- just celebrated their one-year anniversary--- chic boutique hotel. Heading Solaire's cooking team will be Sous Chef Pete Martinez. Solaire-Restaurant-Bar-Hotel-Paradox Solaire Sous Chef Pete Martinez

Martinez is no stranger to being the new guy at the competition. Solaire made its first appearance on the food competition scene at this year's Clam Chowder Cook-Off and Festival. Though they didn't place, Martinez says, "We had a good response and turn out. Now we make chowder on our menu. We make it fresh and something you can't get in town. That's where we want to take our chili. If we're going to do it, we're going to do it from scratch."  Martinez plans to pull together ideas from his fellow chefs along with older influences, like his grandma, to create Solaire's original chili recipe.

Photo courtesy of Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk Photo courtesy: Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk When discussing must-have chili ingredients, Martinez keeps it simple with "a good meat and some nice chiles." He's referring to fresh chiles, of course. "Obviously, the variety you use is going to make the difference. We're going to see what we can get currently at the moment, so we don't pick up the dry stuff that's been sitting on a shelf for months." We wouldn't expect anything less from Solaire which features farm-to-table comfort food using the finest sustainable, locally grown, organic ingredients. While chefs are known to have a few secrets up their sleeves, Martinez insists "it's not really about secret ingredients." Instead, he says, "It's all about using fresh, good quality ingredients that are locally sourced. So that could change things up to the very end. We'll be using short rib that we grind here in house, and we're talking to local vendors to see what will be good and plentiful." Plentiful is super important in a competition where you must make seven gallons of chili, minimum, and no one wants to run out. In the end, the chili cook-off is all about having fun, with many of the participants dressing up and decorating their booths to entice you to taste their goods. Solaire will be getting into the spirit with a haunted forest theme, just in time to get the word out about Halloween Night at The Paradox. Public tasting begins at 1 p.m. Admission is free and tasting kits are $9 each, with a portion of the proceeds to benefit Jacob's Heart Children's Cancer Support Services.


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  • Richard Perez 3 years 153 days ago
    Will you be doing a chili cookoff this year, if so, when, I'm thinking about entering..