Resident Gilbert Berriozabal was the winner of the Chile eating contest at San Fernando’s First Annual Chile Festival “I had been thinking about entering because I do like spicy foods and my friends are always enjoying my pico de gallo and salsas so at the last minute just twenty minutes before the contest was going to begin, I decided to enter.” A large enthusiastic crowd formed as the contestants were given one chile after another with each one hotter than the other.
“I bit into the serrano and then the habanero and then they gave us another that tasted like a cousin of the habanero that had a chocolate color and that was hotter … the last one was so hot that I actually stood up to hold on to the table, I actually felt like I was going to faint.” The contestant next to Berriozabal saw his reaction and decided not to go for that final chile, making him the winner. “He told me that he didn’t want to faint in front of his family.”
“The last chile was a scotch bonnet chile,” said organizer Tom Ross with a chuckle. For his love of chile and bravery, Berriozabal received a chile trophy, a certificate from the office of Congressman Tony Cardenas and $500.00 “It was a lot of fun and the whole festival was very welcoming and friendly. I had heard about other cities having Chile festivals so I was really looking forward to this one, here in San Fernando. Asked if he would enter again next year, Berriozabal hesitated. “I don’t know.”
Chad Rott of Van Nuys won the salsa-making competition and received a trophy. His winning entry was a mango-salsa that left other entrants who had prepared traditional salsas grumbling. Tom Ross said the entries were judged on “spiciness, texture, overall taste and aroma. They were judged overall.”
And what’s a chile festival without firemen? Northeast valley Fire stations 75, 91, and 98 competed and 91 left with bragging rights. “That was a lot of fun,” said Ross, “They drove in with their fire trucks and had to leave as calls came in but eventually they were all able to be at the festival at the same time for the competition and the crowd loved it. Of course that was a great competition,” Ross said.
“I couldn’t ask for anything more,” said Ross.
“The community came out and had a great time, everyone was smiling and this was like a launch party for our future festivals.” A lot of credit was given for the team of volunteers. “Each person on our committee did the work of three people and together with volunteers from the Kiwanis, the Odd Fellows, the Chamber, Mall merchants and the last final piece – help from the city of San Fernando, I cannot be more pleased with the great outcome of this festival, damn I’m happy.” said Ross, “Even the very hot weather on Saturday and chilly weather on Sunday was in sync with the theme of our event”, he happily noted. From the stage, the enthusiasm was echoed, “What a great event,” the founder of Tierra, Rudy Salas told the large crowd. “San Fernando is chill!” The crowd full of fans sang along to the band’s anthem song, “Together,” which was fitting for such a successful community event.