Dallas Kosher Chili Cook-off heats up April 7
Photos: Courtesy Congregation Tiferet Israel
“The ultimate expression of unity was when we stood at the base of Mount Sinai, k’eesh echad b’lev echad, as one person, one heart,” said Dallas Kosher’s Rabbi David Shawel.

By Deb Silverthorn

The Dallas Kosher Chili Cook-off is 29 years old and counting, with 29 teams entered at press time. The community-wide celebration will take place from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday, April 7, at Congregation Tiferet Israel.

“The magic of the Dallas Kosher Chili Cook-off,” said Ed Jerome, board president at Tiferet Israel, “is the community support through team participation, sponsors and attendees coming to spend the day with other members of the North Texas Jewish community for a day of food and fun.”

With the exception of a two-year pandemic hiatus, the Dallas Kosher Chili Cook-off has taken over the Tiferet Israel parking lot every year since its founding in 1994. This year, with title sponsors the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas, Key-Whitman Eye Center and the Marsh & McLennan Agency (Prescott Pailet Benefits), the DKCC has themed the event “all things Israel.”

The DKCC has given close to $120,000 in proceeds to 59 organizations; this year a donation will be made to Magen David Adom. On-site at the DKCC will be representatives of Ben-Gurion University, Dallas Stands With Israel, Friends of the IDF and United Hatzalah.

“The Cook-off has been the highlight of the year and was always something I looked forward to as a young child. As an adult, being involved in the planning process, the behind-the-scenes action, gives me a greater love for this event,” said Mollie Mirsky, Tiferet Israel’s director of operations. “I always enjoy seeing so many organizations come together to enjoy the fun and the event.

This year’s judges include DB Catering owner and chef, Deborah Benaim; A Taste of the World Catering owner, Ruthy Henkin; David Feder, a writer-editor, food maven, registered dietitian, nutrition counselor, former professional chef and food scientist; The Market Local Comfort Café co-owner, Jordona Kohn; and Jay Valley, chef and culinary director at Trinity Groves.

“It’s fun to share in the culinary journeys and the expressed creativity in the outdoor kitchens of the Cook-off,” said Benaim, whose husband, Ariel Lipski, her “ace taste tester,” will be joining her in the judging booth. “Everybody is always in a good mood at the Cook-off and it’s fun to run into people from so many circles from throughout the years.”

Henkin, a first-time judge for the event, says attending the DKCC is among her favorite family memories. Campus caterer at Akiba Yavneh Academy, Henkin makes chili con carne tempered for students’ tastes, but looks forward to experiencing the variety of participants’ recipes.

The Market Local Comfort Café’s partner, Jordona Kohn, returns to the DKCC judging table. She said, “Coming together to celebrate Israel and — in such a Texas twist — to literally celebrate chili is beautiful. Dallas’ Jewish community is one of the strongest I’ve ever known. I’m glad I get to be included this way.”

Tiferet Israel neighbor Royal Lane Baptist Church again joins Tiferet Israel in hosting a food drive benefiting the Jewish Family Service of Greater Dallas Food Pantry and the North Texas Food Bank. JFS has been the only team to participate in all 29 of DKCC’s events.

Chaverim, friends, like the statement on David Geldman’s jacket, will show up in droves on Sunday, April 7, 2024, for the 29th Dallas Kosher Chili Cook-off.

“We appreciate Howard Janco, our perennial head chef, for creating our award-winning vegetarian chili,” said Cathy Barker, JFS president and CEO. “JFS is all about tradition, so we’ll keep showing up and bringing our best.

“Also appreciated are donations to the food drive which allow us to meet the needs of so many in our community,” added Barker. “As we partner with the North Texas Food Bank, we hope as people are readying their homes for Passover they’ll bring nonperishable items with them to the Cook-off. The need is critical.”

In 1993, when Jack Baum, Mark Kleinman and Dan Prescott initiated the idea, they couldn’t — or maybe they did — imagine that it would become a regular event with more than 4000 attendees.

“The impetus was to bring all of us together,” Baum reflected. “A kosher event meant everyone would be included. We set up the tents with organizations that may or may not have had any connection alongside one another and we grew from 1,000 to 2,500 to 4,000 guests.

“It’s a fun day with no obligation,” said Baum, “We applaud everyone who’s kept it going and we look forward to welcoming everyone back this year.”

Along with samples from each of the participating teams, with-super spicy, vegetarian, mild and all tastes in-between that are included in the price of admission, the Aaron Family JCC will be selling popcorn and cotton candy; Kosher Palate Catering will have BBQ sandwiches, hot dogs, falafel, corn and coleslaw for sale; and Oogiot Kosher will sell a variety of pareve treats.

The DKCC will again participate in the Drug Take Back program of the Drug Enforcement Agency, the Recovery Resource Council and the Dallas police, to host the Drug Take Back program. Attendees can drop off unused and/or expired human or animal prescription and nonprescription drugs for proper disposal.

Jewish War Veterans Dr. Harvey J. Bloom Post #256 will present the U.S. and Israeli flags. There will be, at no charge, children’s face painting, rides and games, Gail Mabel and Naomi Sanit’s Pitzel Puppet Players shows and entertainment by the Mazik Experience and Side Gig bands.

Dallas Kosher supervises the event’s kashrut from start to finish. More than the food, it is the spirit of Am Yisrael Chai that DK’s Rabbi David Shawel said is the event’s secret ingredient.

“The ultimate expression of unity was when we stood at the base of Mount Sinai, k’eesh echad b’lev echad, as one person, one heart. That we come and extend our togetherness is yesh bracha,” said Shawel, “a blessing and a prayer for unity here and around the world.”

Admission is $10 for adults, $5 for children ages 5 to 13 (includes a free hot dog); children 4 and under are free. Parking is available, with round-trip free shuttle service, at the JCC. For more details, or advance tickets, visit tinyurl.com/Dallas-Kosher-Chili.

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