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Chili masters to gather in Albuquerque for regional cook-off

Chili cooks from around the country will descend on Albuquerque for their chance at a spot at the World Champion Chili Cook-off.

Cooks will compete in the Southwest Regional Chili Cook-off on Saturday, Aug. 4, and the New Mexico State Championship on Sunday, Aug. 5, at Route 66 Casino Hotel.

“It’s the camaraderie of people that come out because they know each other,” chief judge Bob Plager said. “It’s the next-best thing to world championships, and it is fun.

There are three categories chili cooks can compete in each day: red chili, green or verde or salsa. There will be a winner in each of the categories each day. The winners will then move on to the World Champion Chili Cook-off, Sept. 28-30 in St. Louis.

As of late July, there were 25 entries in the red chili category, about 14 entries in the green or verde category and 13 entries in the salsa category for the Albuquerque event. The number of entries can increase as the competition dates approach. Participants must be a member of the International Chili Society and can join for a fee at

About 10 states are represented, including New Mexico, Arizona, California, Nevada, Illinois, Texas, and Oklahoma, according to Plager. First-, second- and third-place winners will be chosen on Saturday and Sunday. Winners will receive an award and cash prizes.

Each entry will be judged on various criteria. The red and the green or verde are judged on their flavoring or their chili pepper taste. Judges are looking for something that is not too hot or not too mild, according to Plager. The texture of the meat also is important. Judges will be looking to see if it’s not too tough or too mushy.

The blend of spices with the meat, which is how well the spices permeated the meat, also is a factor judges will look at, according to Plager. The aroma of the chili also will be taken into account, as well as its color and appearance. Entries cannot contain beans or pasta.

The public can purchase a tasting tray for $5. They will receive samples from contestants and will be able to cast their vote for People’s Choice. Proceeds benefit the Laguna Senior Olympics.

Also on Saturday and Sunday, Route 66 Casino Hotel is hosting a car show. The event will feature 250 to 350 classic cars. Awards in different categories will be given out on Sunday, according to Plager.