Fall Fest EC 2017-09-16 318
Local News

Variety is the spice of chili contest life in Homewood

Judges in the annual Chili Cook-Off at Homewood’s Fall Fest on Saturday remarked on the variety they tasted. Martin Will, winner of Homewood’s Top Chef honors, said that’s a characteristic of chili standards in this area.

  Martin Will accepts a certificate from Homewood 
  Mayor Richard Hofeld. Will was the chef for the 
  Illinois Malamute Rescue Association, which took 
  first place in the amateur division of the annual 
  Fall Fest Chili Cook-off.
(Photos by Eric Crump/
  H-F Chronicle)
 

Judges in the annual Chili Cook-Off at Homewood’s Fall Fest on Saturday remarked on the variety they tasted. Martin Will, winner of Homewood’s Top Chef honors, said that’s a characteristic of chili standards in this area.

“I’m from Texas. Down there it seems like the hottest chili wins,” he said. “It’s not like that here.”

  Chris Nelson of Homewood 
  was first in line for the 
  public tasting of the chilis
  entered in the Fall Fest 
  Chili Cook-off. 

 

Entrants in the amateur division represent nonprofit organizations. Will, representing the Illinois Malamute Rescue Association, said smoked beef brisket was the defining characteristic of his chili. This was Will’s first time winning top honors in the contest. He took second place last year.

The South Suburban Sportsman’s Club was named second-place winner, and the Cancer Support Center’s chili team took third place.

At the other end of the sampling table, Efrain Escalona of La Voute Bar + Bistro, said his chili’s distinctiveness came from a combination of pico de gallo, queso freo and avacado sour cream. La Voute’s entry took first place in the contest’s professional division.

Homewood Mayor Richard Hofeld, who has tasted quite a lot of chili over the years of the contest, said he concurred with the judges’ decisions, noting that Escalona’s and Will’s chilis were excellent in their own ways.

He liked the kick of Will’s brisket-based chili, but he also appreciated the smoothness of Escalona’s recipe.

“The best part is the avacado sour cream,” he said. “They ought to put it on the menu (at La Voute).”

  Michael Bradley of 
  Homewood, a long-time 
  chili-lover, pauses to 
  offer a good review for 
  the samples he had tried. 

 

As usual, chili lovers began lining up a half hour before the chilis went on sale through the public sampling portion of the event.

Chris Nelson, a long-time Homewood resident, was first in line.

“I was here last year and it was so good I had to come back,” she said. 

Michael Bradley of Homewood said he was “going down the line” to try all the entries in the contest — seven amateur and five professional. 

He admitted he was “old school” when it comes to chili, preferring ground beef as the meat, but he appreciated the variety of ingredients.

Bradley came to the event with a special dedication to the dish. He said chili was the first meal he and his wife had together.

“She cooked me some chili. I tried it and that was it,” he said.

The long line was good news for South Suburban Family Shelter. The local agency that aids families affected by domestic violence was the recipient of donations provided by chili tasters.

Vicki Meilach, SSFS community outreach coordinator, said the suggested donation was $3 per serving, but “most people are giving $5, $10 or more,” she said. “This is very good for us.” 

The agency has struggled financially in recent years, hit hard by the loss of state funding during the two-year budget stalemate. 

  Efrain Escalona, left, and Khaston Neal, center, accept
  a certificate from Homewood Mayor Richard Hofeld 
  to mark the first-place finish for La Voute Bar + Bistro 
  in the professional division of the Chili Cook-off.

 

 

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