Cooks check their Chili at the Santa Clara Valley Hospice Chili Cook-off. The Cook-off was won by Jim Rasey of Santa Paula

Chili Cook-off: Rasey garners top
prizes at Hospice’s inaugural event

May 30, 2014
Santa Paula News

It was a welcome spicy treat on a cooler, overcast day, perfect weather for the Santa Clara Valley Hospice/Home Support Group’s (SCVHHSG) inaugural Santa Paula Chili Cook-off won by Jim Rasey of Santa Paula.

Rasey took the top prize in the Homestyle Competition and People’s Choice, according to organizer Leanne Thompson.

A famed chili creator, Rasey donated a portion of his winnings to SCVHHSG.

Thompson will confirm the Homestyle Competition’s second and third place prizewinners that will be announced in the June 4 Santa Paula Times. 

The International Chili Cook-off sanctioned event drew hundreds of people to Limoneira Soccer Fields Saturday where they bought tasting tickets to sample the chili prepared by about 10 cooks, enjoyed arts and crafts, entertainment by The House Arrest Band, DJ Jaime “Rico” Rangel and a Kids Fun Zone.

Jerry Olivas said his chili tasting went well: “They were all good, I had my favorites... it’s amazing that all the cooks really, really care that people like their chili.”

And noted Olivas with no pun intended, “They love the feedback... I bought 10 tickets but I found one chili so good and I was so complimentary they gave me another taste. So I had 11 tastes!”

Big Mama’s Bling Bling Chili was already sold out and cook Laura Flores Espinosa - wearing plenty of bling to match her chili’s name - was relaxing.

Espinosa, a former Santa Paula councilwoman and vice mayor, said it was her first chili cook-off but “I’ll be back next year,” to enter the People’s Choice competition that did not require onsite cooking as does the sanctioned cook-off.

“My chili was healthy,” made with turkey, dry spices, sweet corn and - a recipe component shared by all cooks - “A secret ingredient I will not reveal... “

Overall Espinosa said she was enjoying the cook-off as well as it being “Another event that highlights our Santa Paula!”

At the JR’s Lone Star Chili booth Sylvia and Jim Rasey were greeting tasters with bites of chili that bit back.

Rasey, an established ICS cook-off participant with a strong record of cook-off wins, said he cancelled cooking at a larger Riverside event to be held that same day to stay close to home.

He noted, “I’ve been friends with Olga Castro,” and with Victor Espinosa the co-organizer of the Hospice cook-off, “for 50 years... besides, it’s my community also.”

Cathy Barringer, a Hospice co-founder and longtime board member was impressed by the varieties of chili, noting that with vegetarian, white chicken, sausage and other specialties, “There really is something for everyone... “

Santa Paula’s CURVES Owner Laura Teague said she had an informational booth at the event, “Because I try to help Hospice and want to convince people that exercise is good for you... now,” she added with a smile as she tugged her husband Chuck’s arm, “we’re going to get some chili!” 

Cece Salinas Chavez of Santa Paula had her repurposed glass and other unique handmade items for sale at her Trash to Unique by Cece booth where she was also conducting a lottery. 

“I’ve been doing this for about two years,” and said it is very satisfying to turn recycled materials - AKA trash to some - into works of practical art. 

Other booths featured jewelry, clothing and accessories among other items that were for sale.

On display was the Batventador, owned by Debbie Foreman of Studio City who has transformed her 2012 Lamborghini with Batman images and logos, as well as depictions of children who have suffered from pediatric cancer.

That includes Sophia Andrade, 4, of Santa Paula who died in January after a long struggle with neuroblastoma that had fueled fundraising and widespread community support for the girl and her family.

Sophia loved Nemo, which became the symbol of her fight against her illness... the likeness of Sophia and Nemo, the animated character nestled on her shoulder sharing space with angel wings, is now depicted on the Batventador.

Sophia’s mother, Sandra Pearson Andrade, a psychologist, and her husband, Jim, were at the event to help raise awareness about pediatric cancer as well as a way to express their gratitude to the community of Santa Paula for its support of Sophia, support that continues.

Foreman will drive her “Batventador” car on a cross-country Gold Rush Rally with dozens of other exotic car owners, raising funds and making stops to visit kids in hospitals in five cities. 

The goal is to raise awareness about childhood cancer, as well as $50,000 for the Child Life program at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles where Sophia was treated. 

Donations for the CHLA Child Life program can be made to 

“We’ve had a lot of people stop by,” said Sandra, and for those unaware of her daughter’s story, “I introduce Sophia and tell her story... “

Lily, another child fighting pediatric cancer who is also depicted on the car, was present playing with Foreman, dressed for appearances as Batgirl, and playing in the Batventador.

“This is the first time I have physically met Debbie,” and Sandra said many people were asking about the Gold Rush Rally fundraising event.

She noted that awareness of pediatric cancer must be raised: “Most people think about adults when they hear cancer, not kids but that is the reality and we’re hoping that the awareness will bring funding... and a cure.”

Only 4 percent of federal funding for cancer research goes to pediatric cancer - the leading cause of death of children under age 15 - although Sandra noted, “A lot of research on pediatric cancer can help adults, but not the other way around,” as many adult cancers are tied to lifestyle choices.

Foreman said the cook-off was “great... and a lot of car people came out as well as people supporting Sandra - who is amazing - and her husband. Sophia’s story really touches so many people... “

SCVHHSG group helps river valley residents living in Santa Paula, Fillmore, Piru and Saticoy with a variety of free services; although it concentrates on providing services to those with life-limiting illnesses and their families Hospice also provides transportation to medical offices and loans of medical equipment as well as flower deliveries to shut-ins and respite for caregivers, among other services.

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