Despite rain, heat is on at Chili Cook-off |

Despite rain, heat is on at Chili Cook-off

Michael Schneider

Rain may have dampened the crowds at the 21st annual High Sierra Regional chili cook-off, but at least David Hipskind had an excuse for the moisture on his face Saturday.

An emotional Hipskind, of Roseville, Calif., won the High Sierra Regionals Saturday at the Horizon Casino Resort. The Nevada State Championship and Last Chance Regionals were also decided this weekend at the Horizon.

Hipskind said winning the High Sierra Region, possibly the most competitive in the world, was his dream for 17 years.

He will compete against the world’s best chili cookers Oct. 9 and 10 at the world championship in Las Vegas.

“The secret for good competition chili – I like to revert to an acronym – KISS which stands for Keep It Simple, Stupid,” Hipskind said. “If you over-tinker, it just makes it worse instead of better.”

Hipskind spent some of a rainy Sunday in the judges’ room, savoring his victory as other cookers toiled over chili pots outside the casino, trying to come up with the right combination of ingredients to join Hipskind at the championships.

Karen Gaddis, of Reno, was one of those looking to get to Vegas by winning the Last Chance qualifier. Gaddis won 4th place in Friday’s competition, her highest finish ever, but adjusted herself out of Saturday’s competition.

“Experience is what makes it the best,” Gaddis said. She claimed she’d learned most of her tricks from her veteran chili-cooking parents.

Over at the Great American Chili Company, Ron and Shirley Judson were cooking without a crowd.

“The whole fun of it is the crowd watching you cook,” Ron said. “They don’t want to get wet so there’s no crowd.”

Ron, a competition veteran from Red Bluff, Calif., was trying to improve on Saturday’s finish. Shirley already qualified for the championship with an earlier win in Arizona.

George Swick, a 24-year chili veteran from Bakersfield, was adjusting his chili Sunday afternoon after placing in the top 10 Saturday.

Swick said he tied for the world championship in 1988 and lost in a cook-off. But, according to Swick, it’s not so much about competition as it is about camaraderie.

He said, in the 20 to 30 competitions he enters each year all over the country, there is scarcely a place he can go and not have a bed. Plus many of the same competitors go to each contest.

As far as judging the best chili, judge Bob Grayson said it takes little more than a good pallet.

“They’re all very similar,” said Grayson, chairman of all three events this year. “You have to be able to pick up the differences.

Terrie Q. Sayre, the master of ceremonies for the competition and also a judge, said the chilies were limited to meat and red sauce, Texas Red Chili.

Both Sayre and Grayson agreed the chili at the High Sierra competition is among the best in the world.

“Some say it’s better than the world trials,” Sayre said.

The Last Chance champ was to be crowned Sunday evening, as well as the winner of the salsa competition.

The Shoot and Holler Contest, which consists of the consumption of a jalapeno pepper, a shot of tequila and a well-deserved yell, was canceled Sunday due to weather.

Jim Beaver, of Mammoth Lakes, won the Nevada State Championships Friday. He will join Hipskind and the Last Chance winner in Las Vegas next month.

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