Before we dive into chile verde and a fun Sunday for all, let's get one thing straight: This is not the last Amestoy's Chile Verde Cook-Off; it's just the last one at the longtime northeast watering hole.

"I’m going to keep this tradition going," said proprietor Mike Miller. "It’s been such a success over the years. For the most part, it's more about having a good time than the contest."

Miller said he's not sure where the 10th annual competition will take place but he knows it will be the last weekend of March (when the weather is still nice) and somewhere a little more spacious.

"There are lots of places. I need to make it centrally located. Make it more central Bakersfield we’ll probably get a bigger hit."

This year, 23 teams will set up in the lot surrounding the bar to compete in the cook-off vying for top honors for their pork dish. 

Doors open at 11 a.m., team judging starts at noon, with a member from each team taking a sample to one of three tables, where members of other teams judge at each table and pick their top two. This method to determine the top six contenders was established for fairness and to prevent judges from overloading on stew.

The six finalist dishes are then put before a panel of local notables. This year's judges are former Kern County Supervisor Pete Parra; Miranda Whitworth Munoz, manager of communications for Kern Medical; 23ABC news anchor Tim Calahan; Heather Pennella, alumni and donor relations manager for the Bakersfield College Foundation; Ward 2 City Councilman Andrae Gonzalez; and Aubrie Felkins, owner of Prodonuts.

As judges pick the winners, teams start dishing out samples to attendees, who can enjoy their fill — or until it runs out. And be warned, the returning contenders will run out before the fun does so chow down before the dancing starts at 2 p.m. with Mento Buru and DJ Mikey.

Although Miller jokes that what he enjoys most about the cook-off is "when it’s over," he said he's always grateful that the event brings people together for a good time.

"I always stress it’s about having a good time," he said. "I always give each team a gift. ... I go to every booth and thank them. If it wasn’t for them, we couldn't have the event."

Last year he gave out cook-off-branded pint glasses; this year he's handing out aprons.

For a man who starts his cook-off day at about 4 a.m. getting the bar and lot ready to go, he said it's always "a relief at the end of the day."

Miller said he will be a bit sad when he closes the bar in late June but he said crime in the neighborhood has helped force his hand. With another bar and mobile bar service to run, Miller has plenty to do after cleaning up Sunday.

That includes a farewell beach bash (theme: "toes in the sand and a drink in your hand") and scoping out a new location for this popular competition.

Stefani Dias can be reached at 661-395-7488. Follow her on Twitter at @realstefanidias.

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