VIRGINIA CITY - Randy Dietz of Carson City had the right stuff Saturday to claim the winner's throne at the 17th annual Virginia City Chili Cookoff.
Dietz, who said he's been cooking chili competitively for about six years, now has a fancy folding camp chair emblazoned with a gold "First Place" and a couple red chilies to haul along when he competes in the World Chili Cookoff semi-finals and possibly the finals in Las Vegas in October.
He beat out Washoe Valley's Dr. Ed Pierczynski, winner of the 1992 International Chili Cookoff. In third place by a point was "Dr. Chili's" wife, Mary Pierczynski. Fourth place went to Claire Nienow of Rocklyn, Calif.
Dietz has the choice of competing in the world semi-finals in Vegas and possibly moving on to the finals the same October weekend or of entering instead in the High Sierra Chili Cookoff at Lake Tahoe's Horizon/Casino Hotel. He said he'll make the trip south to Vegas.
Competitors set up Saturday morning in the Bucket of Blood's parking lot just off of C Street, concocting their secret compounds that simmered on portable stoves and burners until the 3 p.m. judging.
Over 400 tasting kits were prepared for the crowd and were all handed out before the judging. After getting a sample at each booth, attendees could cast ballots for their favorites.
In the chili verde competition, a relatively new category on the circuit, Ron Judson of Red Bluff, Calif., took home the top honors.
Reno's Skip Cooley won the salsa contest (the condiment, not the dance).
Herb and Geneva Holman of Reno took home a first-place chair and some cash for having the best booth and presentation.
And the people's choice award, the one judged by the crowd, went to Bill Riley of Red Garter Western Wear.
Joe DiLonardo chaired this year's cookoff with Julie Lee of the Virginia City Chamber of Commerce as co-chair and Sandy Olinger, Brandi Lee and Bernie Jassmann serving on the committee. Fritz Rubins headed the judging team.