February may be hot, but it will be chili, chili, chili in the western Central Valley town of Atenas on Feb. 24, when Kay Costello of Kay’s Gringo Postres holds her second annual chili cook-off to benefit Hogar de Vida children’s home in Fátima de Atenas.
It all started because Kay’s husband, Tom, and a friend, John Kwasny, boasted about their chili-making skills, and Kay challenged them to prove it. As it turned out, 10 top chili cooks pitted their pots against each other, and more than a thousand people came to sample and vote for the three top-tasting chilis.
Tom’s and John’s were not among them, but the event raised about $500 for Hogar de Vida.
This year’s cook-off will be even bigger, Kay promises, and will be held at La Finca Escondito to ensure plenty of room. Signs will show the way. Live music will accompany the tasting, testing and voting, and there will be raffles with “nice prizes.”
“We’ll have a good time, help the (children’s) home and determine who makes the best chili,” Kay says.
Attendees will be given a “silver bean” to deposit in a jar corresponding to their favorite chili, and prizes will be awarded for the three that earn the most beans.
Those who attended last year report that the event was a lot of fun.
“You get to meet people and discover the huge varieties of chili and chili cooks,” Kay says, adding that one recipe last year contained tequila, while another was strictly vegetarian.
Proceeds from this year’s event will again go to help Hogar de Vida, a foster home and immediate-care home for 25 to 30 children ranging in age from babies to 10, who are placed at the home by the Child Welfare Office (PANI). Most of them were in high- risk homes and were removed because of neglect or abuse, according to Tim Stromstad, Hogar de Vida administrator. The home’s needs are great, and its budget is small. All help is appreciated.
The chili challenge will start at 1 p.m. and go on until the last of the chili is gone. The entrance fee for chili cooks is ¢3,000 ($6).
They must prepare enough chili for 200 people and provide small cups for tasting. Those interested may call Kay at 373-3629 to sign up. The entrance fee to see, sample and select the winners is also ¢3,000.
La Finca Escondito is located 500 meters south of Rick’s Place on the square in Atenas.
Buses to Atenas leave regularly from 50 meters west of the Municipal Market in San José; for information, call Coopetransatenas at 446-5767.