By Rachel Gross Weinstein
The Kosher Chili Cook-off has been the “meat” of the Dallas Jewish community since 1994, providing a way for people of all streams of Judaism to come together for an afternoon of fun and camaraderie, while also enjoying the food for which Texas is famous.
The 20th edition of the event will take place from 10:30 a.m.-4 p.m. Sunday, March 10 at Tiferet Israel Congregation, 10909 Hillcrest Road. Fifty teams are expected to compete this year in the beef, turkey and vegetarian categories, according to Neal Stollon, who is co-chairing the cook-off with Ed Jerome.
This year’s cook-off is anticipated to be the biggest ever, Stollon said, and that’s because of the community support and committed volunteers.
“This is really all about the people and the community,” he said. “Twenty years is a nice milestone, but if we can make the chili cook-off bigger and better than before with more teams and activities, that’s what really matters. We are trying to provide a fun and memorable afternoon to the Jewish community. The fact that the community supports this is heartfelt, and I believe everyone can recognize that they are part of something unique.”
Although new teams and vendors come aboard each year, Stollon believes the chili cook-off is also about honoring the legacy of the event.
Five teams that have either never been at the Chili Cook-off before or haven’t participated in many years will spice up the competition this year. Those are the Dallas Jewish Historical Society, Camp Young Judaea, Dontdodishes.com, the Kleinman Brothers and YJAM/The Dallas Fighting Maccabees.
Not only is the community aspect of the event important, but people also enjoy the friendly competition between the teams, Jerome said.
“There is a certain element of competition that people find exciting, and it’s really fun,” he said. “I love the community nature of the cook-off and that it’s an opportunity for everyone to come, for organizations to represent themselves and for people to socialize.”
In addition to some new vendors, a Carter BloodCare mobile lab will be available for people to donate blood. All of the money raised will benefit Tiferet Israel, the Moishe House, the Dallas Jewish Historical Society and the ALS Association.
The Dallas Jewish Historical Society is excited to be a beneficiary and to be participating in the cook-off for the first time in many years, executive director Debra Polsky said. Not only will they cook chili, society members hope to interview people that day to add to its archives.
“We are thrilled to be recognized and participate in this wonderful community event,” Polsky said. “I believe it’s one of the few events that unites the entire community. The Chili Cook-off is part of Dallas Jewish history and we are happy to have an opportunity be part of that.”
This is also the first time in 15 years that Camp Young Judaea in Wimberley will participate in the Chili Cook-off, according to assistant camp director Yael Kahalnik Twito. CYJ also participated in Houston’s version of the event last year.
CYJ is looking forward to becoming more of a presence in Dallas, and the Chili Cook-off is a great way to make that happen, Twito added.
“That’s really important to us and we are anxious to take part in this event,” she said. “It’s also nice for the camp families who live in Dallas to volunteer at the booth and feel like they are really part of their own community.”
There are explicit rules of kashrut that will be followed. For example, teams need a Dallas Kosher rabbi to check their ingredients, and the rabbis are usually available at about 8 a.m. the day of the event. The winners are announced toward the end of the day.
Admission to the chili cook-off is $10 for adults and $5 for children ages 3-10. For information, call 214-691-3611 or visit www.kosherchilicookoff.us.