The smell of warm chili filled the air Saturday afternoon as Costa Mesa citizens and politicians gathered for the annual Halecrest Community Chili Cook-Off.
About 15 chili-cooking groups competed at the free event, which included food, music and vendors. A variety of chili, from spicy to Hawaiian-influenced, was served for free at the cook-off.
Local politicians took advantage of the event by serving their own chili and spreading the word about their campaigns for the upcoming elections.
"This is the kind of thing that I'd like to see Costa Mesa have more of," said Sandy Genis, former Costa Mesa mayor and City Council candidate. "It's great to see Costa Mesa come together as a community."
Assemblyman Allan Mansoor said he thinks an event like this is "necessary" for the community.
"I'm glad to see people coming out here and talking about all kinds of stuff," he said. "Some of it is related to what's going on in the city, and some of it is just having fun and saying hello. At the end of the day, we're here to have fun and get to know everyone. These are our friends and neighbors and it's important to be out here talking to everyone and hearing what they have to say."
Winners were announced in a variety of categories, including the Judges' Decision, Spiciest, Most Unique, People's Choice and Best Décor.
Barton-Stein, a first-time competitor, won first place in both the Judges' Decision and People's Choice categories for its smoked bacon-topped chili.
"We took a risk at trying something different and it worked out," said Art Steinhaus, co-founder of Barton-Stein. "We got to see some neighbors that we never met before. We appreciate all of this."
Mike Barton, co-founder of Barton-Stein, added, "It feels great to win. We've never entered any kind of cooking competition before. We just smoked the meat and put a lot of passion into it, cooked it in our backyards, and it turned out great. We're looking forward to next year and taking it again."
Todd Melde, a Costa Mesa resident for 22 years, said the cook-off is a great community event.
"It's a fun get-together and great neighborhood," he said. "The chili was also great. I burnt my tongue a few times."
Trae Diede, a Costa Mesa resident for 24 years, agreed.
"Our community in this neighborhood is really strong," she said. "I love it. I know I can rely on my neighbors, and I know this is one of those things where I can see their kids grow up. It's great."
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