Makawao resident wins inaugural Hawaii chili championship event

Don Miller of Makawao was selected as 2013 Hawaii state champion in the inaugural Hawaii State Chili Championship Cookoff on Sept. 1 at Ulupalakua Ranch Store & Grill.

His “Hawai’i Ranch Chili” also took the People’s Choice award at the event that drew 17 chili teams and raised more than $1,600 for the Maui 4-H Livestock Association.

A seasoned chili cook and longtime Maui resident who has competed in cookoffs for 23 years, Miller attributed his winning chili to a combination of balance, timing and his secret ingredient, “Natural Punishment,” made with fresh habaneros and jalapenos.

Other top chili cooks included Roger Foltz of Dallas, Texas, 2nd place; Christine Vestfals of Kihei, 3rd place; Larry Lutz of Kihei, 4th place; and June Werner of Kula, 5th place.

The top three Hawaii resident cooks along with the first-place Showmanship team, El Chivos Banditos headed by Jeremy Johnson, are invited to compete at the Terlingua International Chili Championship in Texas on Nov. 2.

Prizes donated by event sponsors Shaka Pops, Ulupalakua Ranch and Maui’s Winery included a hand-painted cook stove by Maui artist Kyle Miyajima for the Hawaii state champion. A complete list of the top 10 winners and photos of the event can be found at

Island-grazed natural beef was provided to the chili teams by the Maui Cattle Co. In adherence to CASI rules, the chili was cooked on site from scratch, tasted blind and judged on five criteria: aroma, red color, consistency, taste and aftertaste.

The panel of 14 judges included members of the public, local media and restaurateurs Alan Wong, Bev Gannon and Karen Christenson.