Bean Fest Chili Cook-Off
For three minutes, Jarod Pizzagoni was in his zone as he stayed hunched over a table at the Tracy Dry Bean Festival on Sunday, Sept. 9.
The 22-year-old Tracy resident had little time to think as he inhaled five burritos during the time limit to win the first Bean Burrito Eating Contest at the festival.
“I started feeling really bad, but I kind of busted through the pain and told myself that as long as I hold down the food, I’m good,” he said, “But, man, whoever made those burritos, I want more of them. They were good.”
Pizzagoni and four other competitors were each tasked with eating six burritos provided by Mi Esperanza, located at 912 N. Central Ave.
The rules were simple: The first person to finish before time expired won, or the person who ate the most burritos in the allotted window would be declared winner.
The strategy was simple for Pizzagoni, who was in his first eating competition. He pooled water on his plate to moisten the food and then, he said, “stuffed my face.”
He ate oatmeal the night before but kept an empty stomach Sunday, swallowing air in an effort to expand his stomach for the food before the contest started at 3 p.m.
“I didn’t want to chew a whole lot. I just wanted to swallow it and not give my body a chance to fight back, because obviously I needed to keep it down,” he said. “It was just me and that burrito and the plate, and then I felt a moment that I wasn’t doing very well, because I started thinking about the crowd. That’s when I hesitated, and my body almost rejected everything, but I had to keep going to the end.”
His reward was $50 and a satiated appetite.
Finishing in second was Philip Hernandez, who admittedly joined the contest because he was hungry. He finished with almost four burritos eaten.
“I was working a booth and heard that it was burritos, so I said, ‘Why not?’” he said. “I gotta eat, you know what I mean?”
It was a rough outing for Beau Blackman, who went into the contest with wide eyes and an empty stomach.
The 89-pound 8-year-old said before the timer started that he had experience competitively eating pizza, fried chicken and wings, among other foods.
“I come prepared, because you either eat faster and you get more down or you eat slower and digest more,” he said. “I get my strategy from reading books, so I’m ready to go.”
By the end, Bo had finished almost three burritos, a solid finish considering each burrito was about the size of his hand.
For Pizzagoni, the champion said after eating, the next move that day was to “rest.”
His score, however, will go on to the Guinness World Records organization for consideration for the most burritos eaten in a three-minute period.
Sofia Valenzuela, spokeswoman for the Tracy Chamber of Commerce, which sponsored both the event and the festival, said that no such record exists with Guinness, so it should be a sure accomplishment for Pizzagoni.
Bolton brews best bean fest chili
Denise Bolton had 300 more reasons to celebrate her birthday Sunday, Sept. 9, at the Tracy Dry Bean Festival.
In her second year of competition at the festival’s chili cook-off, the Tracy resident beat seven other cooks to capture first place honors and a $300 check.
“It was very exciting, I wasn’t expecting it at all, because I did it last year and didn’t place at all,” said the modest chef, who declined to provide her age. “This year I worked really hard on all my spices, and I won. Yay, I’m so happy.”
Bolton, cooking under the title “Chili in September,” was otherwise tight-lipped about the improvements the helped her scoop the top spot Sunday. She described her brew as “spicy with a little afterburn, with layers of flavor.”
“I practiced like a month at a time, and had friends taste and it for me,” she said. “I wanted to get it right. I’m just so happy that I won this time.”
Joyce Nelson captured second place, while Marisol Arvizu was awarded third.
The distinct smell of chili wafted for blocks on Central Avenue, where cooks began early Sunday preparing their blends outside of the Grand Theatre Center for the Arts for judging and public sampling that afternoon.
Raul Hasburn was making the rounds to each chili station and had the trophy to show for it — a stack of six cups with spoons sticking out on all sides.
“I just started kind of a leaning tower here,” he said. “I got the first bunch, and my friends keep trying to add to it.”
The chefs all used the same kidney bean to cook their chili. Five judges scored each of the batches individually, and the highest score was declared the winner.
Sharon Germolus has attended the festival for 23 years, and she makes the chili cook-off a regular stop.
“Everything is so good, and you have these chefs out here really putting everything they have into their chili,” she said, holding two sample cups. “This is so great for downtown Tracy, and to see it grow over these years since I’ve been coming is just great. We need more of this in downtown Tracy.”
For Bolton, much like her spicy chili, her night was about to heat up.
“I’m gonna take my check and celebrate,” she said.