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Rogers Park To Heat It Up With Cook-off

HEAT IT UP PROMOThe Glenwood Sunday Market will hold its fourth annual “Heat It Up!” chili cook-off in Rogers Park this Sunday, giving people a chance to warm up and escape from all of the snow.

At least 21 different chefs, or teams, will participate in the competition by bringing their own unique chili to the Glenwood Bar, located at 6962 N. Glenwood in Rogers Park. There are no rules or guidelines of ingredients, so anything goes in this contest.

“I always say don’t be afraid of a crazy idea,” said Sheree Moratto, the director of the Glenwood Sunday Market. “It’s amazing what people come up with. Of course, being in Rogers Park, people are always expecting something fun to be going on.”

Each team must have prepared a minimum of five quarts of chili prior to the event. They also must bring their own heating mechanism and serving utensils. To register as a team, the entry fee (see the website)  and the deadline is today. Last year the registration was full with a waiting list.

There are three different ways to be crowned a winner of this contest: by popular vote, professional vote or for the best decorated serving station.

When the cook-off begins at noon, all of the tasters will be issued small bowls and spoons for sampling. They then have three hours to try the different chilis and vote for their favorite by leaving tips. The chef or team with the most tips at the end of the cook off will be the winner of the popular vote.

Tasters at the cook-off will also choose the winner of the decorative contest.

“One thing we’re going to do that’s new this year is when tasters come in, they’ll get not only a little pile of bowls and a few spoons, but we’ll also give them three Mardi Gras bead necklaces, and that’s how they can vote for their favorite decorations,” Moratto said.

The chef with the most necklaces at the end wins.

A panel of professional judges will determine the winner of the professional vote. One of the judges this year is Eric Warren, 42, from Chicago. He was the winner of last year’s “Heat It Up!” chili cook-off and is now a competitor on the national circuit.

Eric’s winning chili from last year was a home-style recipe he created himself. He dehydrates his own chili peppers and has always loved to cook.

“What I’m looking for in a really good bowl of chili is a chili where I’d want to eat the entire bowl,” Warren said, “Not just the perfect one bite, but a chili that I’d want to curl up and have a whole bowl or two of. That’s what I’m looking for.”

First place winner of the judge’s vote is awarded $100 cash; second place gets $50; and third place gets $25. Each winner will also be granted free entry into next year’s competition.

This is also the first time that there will be a category for the professional chefs competing. There will be about six professional chefs, and the rest will be amateurs.

The Glenwood Bar has hosted the “Heat It Up!” chili cook-off for the past three years, and owner Renee Labrana said she’s looking forward to hosting it again.

“You’re only as good as the neighborhood you live in,” she said. She also noted that the cook-off is a great way for people in the community to get to know each other, and is for a good cause.

“I volunteered to host the cook-off,” she said. “I thought it would be a great fundraiser for the market.”

The proceeds and tips from the event go directly to the Glenwood Sunday Market to help prepare for its upcoming outdoor season. The Glenwood Sunday Market is a farmers market, located on the West side of the Morse Red Line station, devoted to providing local, sustainable foods to the Chicago community.

“From the beginning, the idea has always been that it’s going to be really focused on local sustainably grown food, organic if at all possible,” Moratto said, “and that anyone who wants to shop there will be able to.”

In addition to the chili, there will be raffles, a prize wheel, a full bar and of course, great company. You can buy tickets for tasters are  in advance, or at the door, but they cost more at the door.

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