Gallup Chili Fest winners defend titles

By Shondiin Silversmith
Navajo Times

GALLUP, Oct. 3, 2013

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(Times photo – Shondiin Silversmith)

TOP: Rebeca Silva from Gallup took away the top prize and also earned three awards for her red and green chili.

MIDDLE:Representing Navajo Technical University at the Gallup Chili Fest are, from left to right, Robert Bedonie, Raina Marianito, and Randy White. The three earned the people’s choice award in the best salsa category.

BOTTOM: Individual competitor of the 2nd annual Chili Fest, Lester Sandoval from Gallup, scoops out some of his green chili for a taste.



Among those who defended their Gallup Chili Fest titles was Navajo Technical University students, who once again claimed the people's choice award this year for their fresh fruit salsa.

The 2nd annual Gallup Chili Fest was held over the weekend at the Rio West Mall in Gallup and this year, there were 11 competitors including four individuals and seven restaurants.

Each of them were critiqued by 13 judges and evaluated based on their divisions -- individual or restaurant. Those who purchased a tasting ticket were, however, the ones to vote for their favorite salsa in each category - red chili, green chili and salsa.

NTU's winning salsa was made out of pineapple, watermelon, mango and different types of chilies, according to NTU's culinary instructor Raina Marianito, whose team also included Randy White from Crownpoint, N.M. and Robert Bedonie from Naschitti, N.M.

Marianito, White and Bedonie all shared the enthusiasm of winning another people's choice award for NTU because they say they were representing their school.

"We're ranked up there with all the other top notch culinary schools," said Marianito, a certified sous chef from the American Culinary Federation. "We have just as much credibility as them. We show our students that they can be chefs out there."

Competitors representing Railway Café also defended its Best Salsa title for the restaurant category again this year.

Katie Conn from Railway Café said, "I thought it was pretty awesome. We're really proud, we try hard here and all of us are really proud about it, and we hope that all the people will come and try us."

This was the second time Railway Café entered the contest and Conn said, "We thought it would be a good way to get our way out there, and we had a blast."

As for the winning salsa Conn said, "It's a secret recipe and it's got a kick to it. If you're a real chili lover you'll like it."

The top winner of the day was Rebeca Silva, who walked away with three Chili Fest awards, two in the individual category and one people's choice.

Last year, Silva competed as a team member representing Glenn's Pastry and helped the team win the best red chili award.

Silva said it was a great feeling to win this year in the individual category.

Chili Factory also defended its title in the best green chili category, and added winning the people's choice award for best green chili to its accomplishments.


Other winners

The other winners of the Chili Fest include Sammy C's Rockin' Sports Pub & Grille for best red chili in the judged restaurant category and first-time competitor Victoria Garcia from Gallup for the individual category for best salsa.

According to Kimberly Esparza Mans, the Rio West Mall general manager, the chili fest drew in at least 4,000 people this year and 1,300 tasting tickets were sold, which will profit the Jim Harlin Community Pantry in Gallup.

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