It’s that time of the year again. UNM Gives has finally announced Gary Bednorz as the winner of the 2021 Salsa Showdown. Bednorz will receive one year of free parking courtesy of UNM’s Parking and Transportation Services.  

The Salsa Showdown commenced UNM Gives’ two-month long United Way campaign on Oct. 5. And while the 2021 COVID-conscious grab & go setup looks a bit different than it did three years ago, Lobos didn’t shy away from participating in the event, whether it be a salsa entry or quick salsa tasting.

This year the number of contestants was limited to six recipes due to the pandemic and cost effectiveness. In addition, UNM Gives concluded that after tasting 10-20 different salsas in one sitting the salsa can affect people’s palates, thus affecting their ability to properly taste and judge.

Rather than having contestants prepare their recipes themselves, this year’s recipes were given to and prepared by Chartwells Catering. Samples were then given out in paper bags with chips which included instructions on how to vote for individual’s favorite recipe stuck on the front.

Chartwells prepared 225 bags of chips and salsa which were distributed on Oct. 5 at the SUB with 167 people voting on the tastiest. Voters could submit their first and second choices. choices. 

Bednorz, whose salsa was entry No. 1, finished with 52 of 167 votes or 31.1 percent. Amber Fitzgerald and Jim Williams tied for second place, each with 36 votes. The remaining three contestants rounded out the voting. Fitzgerald entered entry No. 6 while Williams was entry No. 5.

Bednorz works for UNM off campus as the west coast academic student recruiter and 

would never have been able to participate in the pre-pandemic style salsa showdown.

“Last year when the entry format was changed to submit a recipe and Chartwells make the salsa, I sent in my entry,” said Bednorz. “I did not win, however, I connected with the 2020 winners who provided me some tips - which helped improve my recipe.”

Bednorz said he wasn’t sure if his "new & improved" salsa recipe would win, but with only six entries due to the pandemic and a scaled down contest, he knew he would at least finish in the top-six.

“This year when the Salsa Showdown contestants were asked to send in a recipe I figured, I'll give it another try and here's why...good salsa is something everyone loves to eat, hopefully, this year I won't be beat,” he said.

The Salsa Showdown was the kick-off event for the annual UNM Gives United Way campaign. Faculty and staff can support the campaign by going to UNM Gives now through Nov. 30. There will be random prize drawings throughout the campaign and the department with the most noticeable level of giving (one at main and one at HSC) will have pizza delivered by the UNM President and the Executive Vice President of the Health Sciences Center up to 10 pizzas (if state public health restrictions allow).

In comparison to 2020’s Salsa Showdown, UNM Gives noticed a rise in voluntary taste testers during this year’s event.

“What’s cool this year that I’ve noticed more than in previous years is before it was that we had to sell it to people walking by…this year either because they participated before or because they read it or saw it somewhere, we’ve had a lot of people who came specifically to the SUB today just to participate in the Salsa Showdown,” said Abra Altman, co-chair of the UNM Gives United Way Campaign. “And they’re excited to participate in it and think it’s something fun.”

Last year, about 950 members of the UNM pack were able to donate almost $530,000 to the United Way Campaign. While a goal is to raise more money this year, the main goal of the current campaign is to increase the number of donors by ten percent meaning UNM Gives hopes for about 1045 donors in 2021.

For more information and ways to donate, visit the UNM Gives United Way campaign.