"I'm a champion. Come get me. Challenge my chili," said Angelo Barriga, the Thursday after he won Surf City Chili at the Beach cook-off. "Try my chili and tell me you don't like it. It's impossible."
At first, entering chili cook-offs was a way for Barriga to help promote the Pacific Coast Hoops Youth Basketball League, a nonprofit he and his mother operate in Huntington Beach.
Before he knew it, he was entering almost every competition he could find, finishing either in first or second place. And after two years of joining the cook-off circuit, Barriga nabbed the people's choice award at the cook-off.
"I never cooked chili until two years ago," Barriga said. "I've never practiced it before then."
Barriga — a Huntington Beach native now living in Anaheim — said he made 30 gallons of chili for the June 15 event and didn't have any left by the end of the day. He watched one person after another eat a spoonful and do a double take, he said.
His mother, Kandie Barriga, said her son is competitive by nature, whether it's chili cook-offs or basketball.
"He's always been like that. Ever since he started playing, he will give 110%," she said. "Even if he's going to lose, he gives 110%."
Kandie Barriga started Pacific Coast Hoops in 2005 because he did not like the constraints of another youth basketball league in Huntington Beach.
She wanted teams evenly matched and every player to have time in the game.
"My goal is to make sure that every kid has a chance to play and win," she said.
Pacific Coast Hoops conducts a combine and draft, similar to what the National Basketball Assn. does with potential draft picks.
The league holds a two-day event during which different skills — jumping, dribbling and shooting, to name a few — are scored by coaches. Once all the numbers are tallied and the skill level of players is determined, Kandie places them in teams and makes sure no one team has a preponderance of highly skilled children.
"You can't come in [to the league] with your own team," Angelo Barriga said. "Everyone is going to get drafted to their skill and my mom makes it as even as possible."
The league caters to around 400 children in grades 3 to 8 and about 100 in the high school and adult divisions.
Kandie Barriga said that about 70% of players who begin in the third grade continue with the league until they're out of high school.
Angelo Barriga was ecstatic after winning the people's choice award at Chili at the Beach, clinching the title with only an eight-point lead over Pete's Sunset Grill, said Susan Welfringer, manager of the Huntington Beach Business Improvement District.
He's vowed to come back every year to defend his title and he's got his sights set on the LBL Shenanigans, the team that took first place in the judge's choice category.
"I'm in it to win it and I'm just going to keep entering all these competitions in Orange County, Huntington Beach or wherever they are," Angelo Barriga said. "I'm going to get the PC Hoops name out by letting people enjoy my delicious sweet and spicy chili."Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun