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'Chili-Heads' to Compete in Heat it Up! Competition at Mayne Stage

By Benjamin Woodard | February 20, 2014 7:37am
 Resident Helen Long Carlock attends last year's Heat It Up! chili cook-off.
Resident Helen Long Carlock attends last year's Heat It Up! chili cook-off.
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Jeff Urbazewski

ROGERS PARK — Joe Woodel's brisket chili is good, but is it the best?

The seasoned barbecuer, known for his Husky Hog BBQ food truck, will go up against stiff competition Sunday at Rogers Park's premiere chili cook-off, Heat It Up!.

"It’s a great contest," said Woodel, who's placed second the past two years. "It’s growing and getting better every year."

But this year, Woodel said he planned to end his championship drought by adding a brand new "secret ingredient" to his recipe.

Woodel's mum on the details, and won't even hint at the contents of his chili's carefully concocted blend of spices. ("I can’t tell you — or I’d have to kill you," he said.)

So the curious will just have to show up noon-3 p.m. Sunday at the Mayne Stage on Morse Avenue to get a taste for themselves.

In previous years, the competition was held at The Glenwood bar. But as the event has grown, more space was needed and the event was moved this year to the Mayne Stage, said Sheree Moratto, director of the Sunday Glenwood Market and the chili competition.

Moratto expects about 20 competitors, but space is still available in both the professional and amateur competitions.

Competitors — called "chili-heads" — are required to bring at least a gallon of either vegan, vegetarian or meat chili.

Each chili will be judged on aroma, taste and presentation by a mix of selected residents and Chicago food professionals.

First, second and third place winners will receive $100, $50 and $25, respectively, in tokens that can be used at the Glenwood Sunday Market.

Whichever chili gets the most tips from the cook-off's attendees is dubbed the crowd favorite.

Proceeds raised from ticket sales — $15 in advance and $20 at the door — and from a $15 entrance fee for competitors will benefit the Sunday market.

Moratto said she heard a rumor one of the competitors might be making a grilled-cheese-inspired chili this year. A couple of years ago, she said, someone served doughnuts smothered in — you guessed it — hot chili.

"I never know what is going to be," she said, but "where there are people and chili, what can go wrong?"