The smell of spicy menudo, the taste of hot jalapenos, the warmth of the hot Bakersfield sun, the sound of Latin music and reuniting with friends. Seems familiar?

You think of the Latino Food Festival and the Menudo Cook-Off, which returns to the Kern County Fairgrounds on June 5th.

The annual event, now in its 18th year, is hosted by the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, where the community comes together for food, music, games and fun.

Jay Tamsi, president and CEO of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, said that with more than 15,000 attendees last year, they expected more this year.

As the chamber’s biggest fundraiser of the year, Tamsi says he and the chamber’s active board are “dedicated volunteers who help with the event every year.”

The menudo cook-off judgment will be led by local lawyers, restaurateurs and media talent.

Cooking events are not limited to the menudo. Participants are eagerly awaiting another highly coveted competition: the jalapenos tasting competition. Children, adolescents and adults participate in the heated battle for victory.

While participants enjoy an endless menudo, they will also learn about many traditions of Hispanic culture, such as folk dancing and live music. Participants will enjoy the musical styles of various groups, such as Los Lonely Boys, winner of multiple Grammy Awards.

Other traditional Hispanic cuisines, such as Mexican candy and frozen fruit bars, ceviche and chili verde, are offered when baking, among a variety of other foods, according to Tamsi.

“When it comes to menudo, it’s all about bragging rights – who has the best menudo in town,” Tamsi said.

The 2010 and 2015 winner, Gilbert Cadena, plans to win the award again this year. But competing for Cadena isn’t just about winning.

“It’s about eating and having fun,” he said.

Sponsored by McMurphy’s Irish Pub, Cadena participates in several cooking competitions in County Kern.

“My first year of winning at this particular event was great, but last year I didn’t brag. This year I plan to bring him home. I think I have a good chance, ”said Cadena.

Most importantly, the event emphasizes family.

“We are organizing the competition for the ‘best decorated’ stand. Some post photos of their deceased ancestors or those ancestors who shared their menudo recipes from generation to generation, ”Tamsi said. “For many families, it’s a reunion – a time to come together and celebrate our love for our culture and, of course, through the main course: the menudo.