BRIDGEPORT — The neighborhood's best chefs and amateur cooks will converge for a benefit to help fund programs at Benton House, the neighborhood's century-old resource agency.
Sponsored by Pleasant House Bakery and Jackalope Coffee and Tea House, the Bridgeport Chili Cookoff will take place from 6-10 p.m. Feb. 20 at Benton House, 3034 S. Gratten Ave. Tickets are $10 in advance and $15 at the door. More info here.
"We wanted to support this fundraiser because we really support the idea of teaching youth sound engineering," Jackalope co-owner January Overton said.
The event is designed to highlight the "Audio Electronics" program hosted at Benton House, where teens learn to build, repair and maintain donated electronics.
"The program teaches kids how all of this stuff works. We make microphones, direct-input boxes and our own testing equipment. We've made preamps and equalizers. We made a theremin," said Jaime Gartelos, 44, a local artist who's been leading the sessions. "We're always taking donations ... but the donations tend to be older gear, obsolete gear and broken gear. If we can, we fix it."
Overton said she expected about a dozen entries who would be cooking up big batches at the chili throwdown, which will be judged by a panel of local tasters. The best chili cook takes home a trophy and prizes donated by local businesses.
Three bands are scheduled to perform, with the production handled by alumni of Sound Alternatives, an audio engineering course formerly hosted at Benton House that sent students to produce a series of outdoor concerts at Willie Dixon's Blues Heaven, former home to the famed Chess Records.
Sound Alternatives has since moved to Pilsen, but Gartelos still teaches courses in audio electronics at Benton House.
"The kids right now come to us through After School Matters and we get kids from all over the city, which great," Gartelos said.
His program takes place in three hands-on sessions throughout the year, which he said can serve as a gateway to careers in audio electronics.
Ben Noetzel, a program coordinator for Benton House, said proceeds from the chili cookoff will help pay for long-term projects, including upgrades to a small downstairs recording studio.
Have what it takes to make Bridgeport's best chili? Email email@example.com for information on entering.