Cypress Festival Chili Champ cooks to please the “senses”

Courtesy photo Left, the Cypress Community Festival’s People’s Choice chili cook “Dyno Dan” Rodriguez, accepts the cash prize along with his assistant Josh McBride of White Oak Barbeque.

One of the most prestigious distinctions, even if for sentimental reasons, is to be crowned the “People’s Choice” chili cook at the annual Cypress Community Festival.
This year’s champ, “Dyno Dan” Rodriquez, is a down-home, no-nonsense chef who is as comfortable behind the stove as he is in his regular job as an educator working with special needs students.

“You just never know,” said Rodriguez when ENE, by chance, interviewed the eventual winner during the cooking segment at the Cypress Festival.

Each year, Cypress brings its community together to celebrate various aspects of the community by sponsoring the massive festival on the grounds of its community center during “Celebrate Cypress Month.”

While there are many aspects to the festival, the chili cooking contest is not only well known but also acts as the kitchen table around which most festival goers eventually visit to taste the various chilis.

In fact, the only judges in the Cypress Festival chili competition are the residents themselves. They meander through the maze of chili pots, tasting the various bowls of chili, then voting through a simple process.

When the ballots were counted, none other than Dyno Dan’s BBQ, which is one of Dan Rodriguez’s two side hustles. Interviewed again after he was named the winner, Rodriquez said he was a little surprised to have won.

“I was surprised because in the past I’ve made the same chili in this competition,” he said, either because it’s better now or that he just didn’t have enough friends voting in the People’s Choice.

Although cooking is a “hobby,” Rodriquez takes it quite seriously. “I cook for the three senses,” Dyno Dan says without as much as a blink of an eye.
For Rodriquez, when the chili is cooking, it should give tasters a “whole, full taste with every bite.”

“I mean the secret is partly in the meat. I use a couple of different types of meat to contrast flavors and texture,” he said.

“I’ll use sausage and that kind of gives it a different texture,” he said, “and, of course, a different flavor.”

“The tri-tip I used is smoked so that also gives it a different flavor and adds a little smokiness to it,” said Rodriquez.

“The tri-tip I use is a smoked tri- so that that also gives a different flavor and adds a little smokiness to the chili.”

“I try to hit the senses of taste,” he said, “so everyone knows about the sweet and salty, but I also try to hit savory and a little smokiness,” nonchalantly says Rodriquez.

Dyno Dan is an imposing personality. During the festival, he quietly sits at the edge of his counter, chatting with people as they stroll by.

He smiles when they ask for a sample of his chili, potentially another voter.


“My favorite thing about Cypress is that it still has kind of a small-town feel to it,” said Rodriquez. “You know, for me, I’m a little more on the conservative side of things, so I appreciate the small-town feel.”

“And it seems like everybody’s always willing to help each other out whenever something arises. I see that a lot,” he said.

A Buena Park native, Dyno Dan said he’s lived in Cypress for more than two decades. Rodriquez said he is happy to give back by participating in the festival because he sees others giving to others throughout the community.

“In the Cypress community,” said Rodriquez, “if somebody is in need, it just seems like anytime, there are just tons of people willing to help,” he said.

In real life, Dyno Dan works in the classroom for the Department of Education with special needs children. He also runs the transportation department for the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Anaheim-Cypress. Then, he runs Dyno Dan BBQ, another side hustle where his influence is growing.

“You need a couple of side hustles just to make it in this state,” he says.
Dyno Dan can also be seen on YouTube, reviewing various Bar-b-que dishes, and rating them.

He even teaches the art of smoking.

This past Saturday, Rodriquez and his partner taught a class of backyarders how to better utilize their grill.

“Yes, I’m doing a rib class,” he said, “me and my buddy, we’ve set up a rib class to teach people how to smoke ribs. I want to show people how easy it is to cook a good rib without, you know, boiling it first and finishing it off on the grill.”

Each year, Cypress’ best chili cooks square off during the annual festival.
For decades, citizens of Cypress have united into a broad community to celebrate itself during its annual Cypress Community Festival held last week on the grounds of its civic cen

City officials, including Mayor Paulo Morales, praised this year’s festival, saying the first event post-COVID brought the community back together.
“It’s been a terrific week where we have celebrated our Cypress community,” said Morales at the city’s Council meeting after the festival.