By Ben Tinsley
DALLAS — A team of volunteers from Moishe House, led by Austin Litoff, won the 2016 bragging rights Sunday for preparing the best bowl of kosher chili in Dallas.
This victory at the 23rd annual Dallas Kosher Chili Cook-off was a return to form for Moishe House, which only two years ago had been a three-time people’s choice winner.
Austin Litoff, sipping Champagne out of his first-place trophy as he spoke to a reporter, said he used his same recipe as last year but tweaked a few elements.
“You get new ideas,” Litoff said. “You tweak it each year. You add new, different things like ethnic food from different parts of the world. And you do what you can.”
Sunday was a beautiful day, which most certainly was what contributed to the crowded conditions at the cook-off. The grounds of the event were filled with over 4,000 people.
Ed Jerome, past president of Congregation Tiferet Israel, said the Dallas Kosher Chili cookoff was mentioned in the Dallas Morning News Guide — which might have attracted a few new attendees.
As far as the chili results are concerned, second place went to Henry Litoff, Austin Litoff’s brother — for the third year in a row.
Third place went to Tom Thumb.
Jewish Family Services took first in the vegetarian chili category. And Congregation Shaare Tefilla took the people’s choice award.
A couple of this year’s winners attributed their victory to changing the texture of their chili.
Both Howard Janco, who led the JFS vegetarian chili team, and Austin Litoff said they kept their basic recipes but tweaked key elements to produce the changes in texture.
“Instead of tomato sauce we had tomato paste with tomato puree,” Janco said. “That combination is what changed the texture and made it better.”
All chili, of course, remained kosher and under supervision of Dallas Kosher. Preparation included the beef, tons of vegetables and seasoning.
Vegetarian chili was the same — except, obviously, without beef.
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After the judging was complete Sunday, chili judges Chef Cassondra Armstrong and “Chef Pete” Nolasco both could be found hanging out in the crowd.
The two judged the contest Sunday alongside fellow judges Michael Scott, Chef Stephen Erwin, Chef Michael Mrugala, David Feder, and Chef Danny Hall.
Chef Armstrong said she was impressed by the variety of flavors and spices people put in their chili.
“It was very, very interesting,” she said “There was a variety of flavor across the board — and it was awesome.”
The Mazik Brothers, who play songs from the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s, were a steady presence Sunday. The group has played at the event for the past 12 years.
There were 45 chili-cooking teams, hundreds of volunteers and roughly 20 vendors Sunday.
The event sported many concession stands, games, rides, vendors and a silent auction. Numbers of people parked at the Jewish Community Center on Northaven Road and took the free shuttle bus to the seven-hour event.
Despite the 1300 pounds of beef used to create more than 900 gallons of chili, other foods were being consumed on the grounds as well.
Howard “Chaim” Goldfeder of Texas Kosher BBQ had a food stand there at the cook-off. Goldfeder said his hot dogs, hamburgers and chipped beef sandwiches were quite popular.
“We had about 600 customers,” Goldfeder said at around 2 p.m. “We probably had more than last year because we were giving free hot dogs to the kids.”
And attendees were very thirsty. Diane Goldblatt, a volunteer coordinator for the chili cook-off, made sure the volunteers working there kept drink stands stocked with bottled water, Dr Pepper, Coke and other drinks.
“I’m just glad to see everybody hydrating,” she said. “We had a couple of thousand people get water and sodas. Water went fast, probably the fastest. We will probably run out of Dr Peppers, and they are running neck and neck with Cokes.”
The cook-off’s popular midway area was crowded with children throughout the day.
Alan Putter of Amusement Management International (amifun.com) said his company supplies the rides there. He said the rock wall and trampoline rides were extremely popular.
“This seems like a really good crowd,” Putter said. “I’d say this is one of the best years ever. We have the new inflatables. We change them out every year and the trampoline and rock wall are always crowd pleasers.”
Aime Howard said her son Ezekiel, 6, would certainly agree. She brought him to the cook-off and he was enjoying the heck out of the rides.
“Yeah!” Ezekiel said. “It’s fun!”
Dad Gil Krengel, who was at the midway with sons Jordan, 4, and Gabriel, 5, said his sons were very fond of the bounce house ride — and pretty much everything in and around it.
“They keep going from one to the other,” Krengel said with a laugh.