By Rachel Gross Weinstein
Making the perfect batch of chili is no easy task — a lot of time, effort and a good balance of flavor and spice are added to the pot. Chili cooks around the city are perfecting their recipes for the Dallas Kosher Chili Cook-off March 30.
Fifty teams are competing again this year. This includes teams that are seasoned veterans and many new ones.
The Dallas Fighting Maccabees/YJAM took home the first place trophy last year. Rachael Abrams, who cooked the chili, said the biggest key is to continually taste it and add ingredients as needed from there.
“I didn’t use a recipe and when I tasted it, I knew it needed more cumin, so I added that,” she said. “My advice for people is to not limit themselves to a recipe, especially when making it on such a large scale. Don’t be afraid to try something different; that’s the biggest thing that can make or break the chili. The whole day last year was so much fun, from getting there early in the morning, to making sure we had all of the ingredients. We really didn’t expect to win, but just went out there and did the best we could. It was a great accomplishment.”
Abrams plans to add a few more ingredients to the chili this year, but other than that, she just wants to have a good time. She really enjoys the camaraderie among the teams.
Moishe House was the big winner in 2012 and also won the People’s Choice Award last year. Team member Karli Ward said they usually stick to the same chili recipe each time, but agreed with Abrams that adding ingredients while tasting it is imperative.
“Our recipe isn’t written down anywhere, but we know what to use and always taste it,” she said. “Although the chili is an important part of the event, it’s all about having fun. That’s what goes into winning as well. We always have a blast competing and it’s a great day.”
Along with cooking the chili, judging can also be challenging. Each judge tastes and ranks the chili of every team, and all of the attendees vote for their favorite chili to win the People’s Choice Award.
The judges this year are: April Barney, local chef and food teacher; David Feder, chef, dietitian and food writer; Jennifer Staubach Gates, Dallas City Council member; Wayne Goldberg, CEO of La Quinta and director of the Texas Future Farmers of America Foundation; Harriett Gross, TJP columnist and freelance writer; Lee Kleinman, Dallas City Council member; and Craig Watkins, Dallas County District Attorney. Winners are expected to be announced around 3 p.m.
Town Village North won in 2011 and has a long history of competing in the chili cook-off. Team member Robin Teig said the secret to the perfect chili is a mystery, but she does have a few tips.
“To get great chili, you want some spice, but not too much and it should be meaty, not runny. It needs to have good color and not be too smoky,” she said. “The judges from year to year may have different tastes, so that makes it harder too. The best thing about the chili cook-off is that everyone in the community comes together, from babies to seniors. It’s wonderful to taste all of the chili, the greatest part is the people, music and overall atmosphere.”
2014 Dallas Kosher Chili Cook-off Teams
Adat Chaverim Brotherhood
Ann and Nate Levine Academy
Bnai Zion Foundation
Camp Nageela Midwest
Camp Young Judea Texas
Chabad of Dallas
Chabad of Plano
Chabad of Texas at A&M University
Congregation Anshai Torah
Congregation Beth Torah
Congregation Shaare Tefilla
Congregation Shearith Israel
Dallas Fighting Maccabees/Young Jewish Altruistic Movement (YJAM)
Dallas Hebrew Free Loan Association
Dallas Holocaust Museum
Dallas Jewish Historical Society
Dallas Kosher (VAAD)
Far North Dallas Richardson Democrats
Harvey J. Bloom Post 256 Jewish War Veterans
Hebrew Men’s Poker Association
Hillel Academy of Tarrant County
Jewish Community Center
Jewish Family Service
Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas
Legacy Senior Communities
Makom – Congregation Shearith Israel
NCSY – JSU
Republican Jewish Coalition
Sephardic Torah Center of Dallas
Tom Thumb Supermarket
Torah Day School of Dallas
Town Village North
University of Texas at Dallas Hillel
Yavneh Academy of Dallas