By Emily Rasmussen

After years of San Juan Capistrano’s beloved Chili Cook Off event being absent, the savory, taste-bud craving event is making a comeback on Saturday, May 5.

The 2018 Swallow’s Inn Chili Cook Off is presented by the Swallow’s Inn and the San Juan Capistrano Equestrian Coalition (SJCEC), with a mix of old and new coming to the event. One of the biggest changes is that this year’s Chili Cook Off will be more of a family-friendly event than previously; but most of the same elements will be there.

“It’s held outside and kind of like a festival atmosphere; there will be booths, music playing, vendors selling items, chili tastings and a beer truck,” said Susan Gregory, co-chair of the Chili Cook Off. “We’re trying to make it family friendly so all ages are welcome; people can dance and we have two bands playing.”

The newest addition to the event is the SJCEC involvement.

“The newest thing is that the (SJCEC), so we’ll bring a little bit different feeling with the equestrian community,” Gregory said.

This will be Gregory’s first time organizing the event, but she does remember the Cook Off from before.

“I used to go every year, it was always a big event so we anticipate it being very popular again,” she said. “It’s a day of family fun with good food, good music and a great location.”

The Chili Cook Off is sanctioned by the International Chili Society, so there are some rules that will need to be followed for competitors in the chili contests to go onto final rounds, Gregory added.

“We have a whole set of rules to follow such as the size of the tasting cups, how the judges score; it’s all pretty involved,” she said.

The chili contest categories will feature: red, homestyle, verde and people’s choice.

Some local community organizations will be competing, including the local Rotary Club, individual citizens and people from all over, Gregory said.

“Be ready to taste some awesome chili because it’s very serious, some people take it pretty seriously. They’re hoping to win and move on (to other competitions),” she added.

The last day to enter into the competition is Thursday, May 3. Interested chefs can enter by emailing Gregory at

In addition to chili tasting, there will also be a beer truck, live music by Family Style & Jann Browne, opportunity drawings and other vendors. Gregory estimates 3,000 will attend, compared to some 5,000 in previous years.

The Chili Cook Off runs from noon to 5 p.m. Gates open at noon with $5 admission, but kids under 5 eat free. The event is at the Swallow’s Inn, at 31786 Camino Capistrano, San Juan Capistrano. For more information, contact Susan Gregory at 888.465.4950.

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