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Savoring the Mere Thought of 3rd Annual Justin’s House Chili Cook-off April 22

justin's house

Do you have a favorite, fiery chili recipe or knows a restaurant where the chili can’t be beat? If so, you’ll want to add the 3rd Annual Chili Cook-off for Justin’s House on April 22, 12:30 to 3 p.m., to your list of must-do chili events.

Justin’s House is a local nonprofit dedicated to inspiring youth to overcome alcohol abuse and addiction and maintain sobriety. The chili cook-off is its main fundraiser.

DJ music, raffle baskets, plus outdoor activities and games for kids—from a bounce house to face painting—make the cook-off a family friendly adventure. Those interested can purchase admission for $10 for adults and $5 for kids at the Santa Clara Elks Lodge, 1680 Martin Ave.


“It’s a wonderful community and family event to raise money for a cause that helps our at risk youth,” says Board of Directors Member Tabitha Kappeler-Hurley.

Having a chili cook-off is a natural choice as a fundraiser for Kelly Villarreal, who founded Justin’s House in 2014. She taught culinary arts, as well as being a guidance counselor, at Peterson Middle School and Wilcox High School and retired as Teacher of the Year in 2017 in the Santa Clara Unified School District.

The 2018 cook-off has about 10 chili-making teams—there’s still time to add on—each vying for the top prizes of $500, $200 and $100. Plus, there’s a People’s Choice Award and an award for the best-decorated booth.

Two of the competing teams are from the culinary arts program at Peterson Middle School, once headed by Villarreal. The current culinary teacher, Jarrell Fedalizo, oversees the teams.

The official chili judges are Mike Sellers, Santa Clara Chief of Police; Winston Haddaway, Executive Chef and owner, Thyme Restaurant, Palo Alto; and Jay Marshall, Executive Chef, American Culinary Federation.

The fourth judge is Dylan France, Executive Chef, eBay Headquarters, San Jose. France is a graduate of Wilcox High School’s culinary arts program, where Villarreal was his teacher and mentor.

Helping young people in their resolve to remain sober is personal for Villarreal. She founded Justin’s House in memory of her late husband, Justin Bell, who started drinking as an adolescent and struggled with alcohol addiction throughout his life.

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism’s (NIH) 2015 statistics are sobering: an estimated 623,000 adolescents ages 12 – 17 had alcohol use disorder (AUD), with more females than males reported. Approximately 5.1 million youths ages 12 – 20 reported binge drinking in the past month. About 1.3 million 12- to 20-year-olds reported heavy alcohol use in the past month.

It is estimated that of the 20 million alcoholics in the U.S., more than half began drinking as teens.

“Empowering kids to choose a better way to live” is the motto of Justin’s House.

Empowerment was a goal of its culinary and life skills-building day camp in the summer of 2016 and its leadership camp in summer of 2017. This coming summer, the Justin’s House team is excited about its overnight wilderness camping program for at-risk youth.

Chili cook-off attendees can help launch the program by contributing to a camping equipment drive. Those who bring a gently used tent, sleeping bag, camp stove or other camping equipment gathering dust in the garage will receive 20 raffle tickets per item.

For information about Justin’s House, which as yet does not have a meeting place of its own, and to purchase chili cook-off tickets, visit or its Facebook page.


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