Hot, spicy competition |

Hot, spicy competition

Chili challenge crowns top recipes in the county

Greenridge Mountaineers Dancers square dance on 12th Street during Saturday's second annual Downtown Hoedown.
Tyler Arroyo

2006 Chuck Wagon Chili Challenge

1st Place: Robert Degrange, Old Town Pub

2nd Place: Mae Greene

3rd Place: Adolfo Prieto, The Butcher Shop

Green chili

1st Place: George Trujillo of Yampa

2nd Place: Carl Ecklund and Sean Goodale, Steamboat Grand Resort Hotel

3rd Place: Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club

Red chili

1st Place: Adolfo Prieto, The Butcher Shop

2nd Place: Mahogany Ridge Brewery and Grill

3rd Place: Routt County Cattlewomen's Association

People's Choice Award: George Trujillo, green chili

— While most Routt County residents were tucked in bed at 4 a.m., George Trujillo was making five gallons of the famous green chili he knew would bring him victory.

The early morning work paid off Saturday when Trujillo won the first-place and People’s Choice awards for his green chili at the first annual Chuck Wagon Chili Challenge held as part of the second annual Downtown Hoedown.

“I’d have to say I’m happy,” he said. “Winning over the judges is great, but it’s winning the People’s Choice that matters, especially when you’re competing with all these other chilis.”

Trujillo is a “true chili competitor,” and his recipe was one of 24 chili entries, event organizer Tracy Barnett said.

“That’s a lot of chili,” she said of the many samples the judges tasted.

Chili competitors entered their concoctions in a red, green or firehouse category.

Firehouse was the hottest chili category, Barnett said.

“We wanted to call it hotter than hell, but we couldn’t do that,” she said, laughing. “There are a couple like that, though.”

Old Town Pub employee Robert Degrange, who won the first-place firehouse chili with his red venison chili, said he didn’t think his chili was too spicy, and that it probably won because of the fiery and tasty spices he used.

“This chili is our own house chili at the restaurant. We serve this every night,” he said. “Everyone enjoys it.”

The prize-winning chili is made with venison, kidney and pinto beans, and habanero and jalapeno peppers.

Degrange said his success was due to the tender loving care he put into his chili Saturday morning.

“I was up early at the restaurant making this. I didn’t want it to be too hot because the idea is to sweat a little without having to run for the water fountain,” he said.

Serving chili was just part of the fun on Saturday, Degrange said. Tasting the competition’s chilis was the other part, he added.

“I tried all the chilis there were. There were a lot of really good, unique ones,” he said.

Bringing a unique chili to chili cook-off is crucial, said competitor Adolfo Prieto.

Prieto won first-place for his red pork and cactus chili.

“I was expecting people to be surprised because no one made the same red as me,” he said. “Having a chili made with cactus is the reason I won, I think.”

Prieto, who also entered a green chili, said he took his parents’ Mexican recipe for the red chili and tried to make it better. Prieto also won the third-place prize in the firehouse category.

“Next year, I can’t wait to win three,” he said.

Barnett estimated between 400 and 500 people attended the Downtown Hoedown and Chili Challenge, which featured square dancing, a petting zoo and live music.

“People have been telling me what a blast they’re having all day,” she said.

Having the hoedown during the last week of September follows tradition, Barnett said.

“At the end of the season people would have these great hoedowns to have some fun after working so hard all summer,” she said.

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