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Future Chef, 13, Wins Library's First Chili Cook-Off

Young chef wins out over five other entries at the Agoura Hills Library first annual Chili Cook-Off.

The competition was tough, but in the end, there can only be one winner of the s first annual Chili Cook-off, which was held on Saturday. And the honors went to 13-year-old Sabrina Ephrem. After an hour and 15 minutes of tasting, Ephrem was awarded the grand prize, a $20 gift certificate to Bed, Bath & Beyond.

The library's Grace Bernard and Nina Hull were on hand to keep the voting fair, and at the request of Hull, I entered my as a last-minute entry.

At least 40 citizens from our fair city braved the chili tasting. "We've got six entries and each one is different," said Bernard. There were two spicy entries, two sweet entries, one simple bean and meat entry, and one with Tex-Mex flare (and olives).

My main competition was Ephrem, who was accompanied by her father, Ephrem Getachew. Getachew said he really enjoys the time he spends in the kitchen cooking with his daughter.  

"Cooking brings my family together," said Getachew. "That's why this is fun for me." Ephrem aspires to be a chef someday and entered because she "wanted to have fun," she said. Her culinary prowess extends beyond making chili and said her specialties are omelets.  

Using herbs, spices and vegetables grown in her own backyard, Ephrem put together a winning entry that featured turkey, basil, ginger, mint and fiery Scotch Bonnet peppers. Clearly, she is a girl after my own heart. Her chili was light and spicy and the overwhelming crowd favorite, winning easily over the competition.

Despite my best efforts to filibuster votes at the polling table, my entry did not win. Not even close. 

David and Gabriel Wright, 4, came to try out the chili. Gabriel thought that "number one is spicy" and did not want seconds. Number one was my entry.

Tony D'Agostino said he really enjoyed sampling all the entries and was eager to share his opinion. He said that entry number two, which happened to be Ephram's, was his favorite.

'It tasted very different from any chili I've ever had," he said. 'It had some really great green vegetables in there and the flavor was unique." 

When pressed for why he didn't vote for my chili, he laughed.  I asked if it was too late to change his vote, to which he responded, "In America you can't ask that. But I guess because number two had less meat in it, and I was just into the vegetables...But of course, number one was great."

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