Chili & Salsa Cooks Faced Off In Downtown Toms River

The 28th Annual NJ State Chili & Salsa Cook-Off took place on May 20 in downtown Toms River. (Photo by Sara Grillo)

TOMS RIVER – It was the perfect “May” day for chili, with temperatures lingering around 60 degrees, windy skies and a blanket of grey clouds that let out a light drizzle every now and then.

(Photo by Sara Grillo)

Vendors lined Washington Street from Wells Fargo to the Ocean County Courthouse on May 20, just as they did two weeks earlier for Food Fest, to ladle out their sweet, smoky and hot concoctions of homemade chili for the 28th Annual NJ State Chili & Salsa Cook-Off.

For $7, chili lovers attending the event were given a cup and spoon, plus a yellow ticket and two marbles. The yellow ticket was to be given to their favorite restaurant participating in the cook-off, and one marble each to their favorite chili and salsa maker.

(Photo by Sara Grillo)

While the 15 or so types of chili showed a bit of variation, with some swapping in short rib, chorizo or pork for the traditional beef, what really made vendors stand out were their names, which were as creative as White Bean Wasted, Trailer Trash Chili and Habanero Brothers, who had their booth decorated with a sunglassed skeleton and painted skull heads. Needless to say, their chili was on the spicy side.

Local restaurants participating in the cook-off included A Thyme for All Seasons, Café Enigma and The Office Restaurant & Lounge, which are all located on Main Street.

Vendors selling jewelry, handbags, ice cream, gyros, roasted corn, Italian ice, funnel cake and pizza were wedged in between the chili pots, along with radio stations 94.3 The Point, 100.1 WJRZ, 95.9 The RAT and live entertainment by the Ocean County College Jazz Band.

The Winners

(Photo by Sara Grillo)

1st Place ICS Red Chili Winner – Kitt Hoff

2nd Place ICS Red Chili Winner – Nathan Gramm

3rd Place ICS Red Chili Winner – Mike Freedman

1st Place ICS Chili Verde – Nathan Gramm

2nd Place ICS Chili Verde – Kurt Leithner

3rd Place ICS Chile Verde- Eric Scott

1st Place ICS Salsa Winner – Nathan Gramm

2nd Place ICS Salsa Winner – Judi Omerza

(Photo by Sara Grillo)

3rd Place ICS Salsa Winner – Jason Willis

1st Place People’s Choice Chili Winner – Heather Maddoloni

2nd Place People’s Choice Chili Winner – Mario Saccoccio

3rd Place People’s Choice Chili Winner – Mike Ridge

1st Place People’s Choice Salsa Winner – Frank Benowitz

2nd Place People’s Choice Salsa Winner – Mike Ridge

Best Booth – Harbanero Brothers

Best Commercial Chili Winner – A Thyme For All Seasons

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Sara Grillo served as the Assistant News Editor/Writer at Micromedia Publications in 2017. She has lived in numerous areas within Monmouth and Ocean Counties for the past 9 years. Grillo studied Journalism and Communication Arts at Ramapo College and has held positions in Marketing, Public Relations and Sales prior to writing for Micromedia. She left in October of 2017 to pursue creative writing.