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Novice team wins Carne Asada Cook-off

May 04, 2002|By RUDY YNIGUEZ

Staff Writer

Talk about beginner's luck!

The Sunrunners Car Club of Imperial Valley won the $1,000 sweepstakes award Saturday in its first year of participating in the annual Carne Asada Cook-off at Bucklin Park in El Centro.

The $250 showmanship award went to Campesinos Unidos, while the people's choice went to the El Centro Police Athletic League, whose sponsor was Los Compadres Meat Market in El Centro.

Sunrunners chef and president Ralph Vargas said the secret to winning the 13th annual cook-off was the help he received from fellow club members, the California Highway Patrol, U.S. Border Patrol, U.S. Marines, Imperial Valley Therapy Center and Imperial Irrigation District. He said the meat was obtained from California Market in Calexico.

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Vargas said the money will help local charities. He said the car club will return next year to defend its title.

El Centro residents Gina Boyd and Debbie Valenzuela were there to enjoy the food and more.

Boyd, in awarding her entry ticket, said she sought exceptional texture and tenderness of the meat. She gave her ticket to Central Union High School Spartan Athletic Club, which was sponsored by Kennedy's Market in Heber. Boyd said besides the good food, she was there to enjoy her friends, family and the beer.

Valenzuela said she'd tried four or five of the entries and gave her ticket to CUHS also. She said the marination of the meat is what makes the best carne asada.

Carlos Soto, speaking for the Soto family, which owns Kennedy's, said marination is, in fact, the key to the best carne asada. He also said the family buys its meat from Brawley Beef whenever possible.

Judging the contest were Al Kalin, a Westmorland-area farmer, Jorge Santana, president of the Calipatria chapter of the Chicano Correctional Workers Association and Natalie Tejeda, reporter for KYMA TV Channel 11.

Tejeda said flavor and tenderness of the meat were key, and that the meat not taste like lighter fluid.

Kalin said he was seeking the tastiest.

"I like the most tender one," he said.

Santana also said flavor and tenderness were what would win.

"Something that's not going to taste like I could make in my back yard," he said.

Sponsors of the cook-off included KXO AM & FM Radio. Speaking on behalf of KXO was Carroll Buckley.

"The purpose of the event is to see who has the best carne asada in the Valley," he said. "In Texas they argue about chili. In Kansas City, they argue about barbecue. Here it's carne asada."

Not everybody was willing to share their secret to their carne asada recipe, however, like the cook at the Max Foods booth, which sponsored a second El Centro PAL booth.

"It's a secret," said Jerry Espinoza.

Some of the people who participated in a twist dance contest were awarded prizes for their efforts by the Tecate girls.

Other sponsors were Claypool Distributing/Tecate beer, California Chicano Workers Association and Fiesta Tortillas.

(Note: As is this writer's custom when called upon to write a story of this type, he, too, ate to his fill and judged the competitors. He left his ticket with the fine folks of Los Compadres Meat Market. Theirs seemed the most tender and tasty.)

>>Staff Writer Rudy Yniguez can be reached at 337-3440.

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