The aroma of simmering chili fills the Orland Park Civic Center on Saturday, Jan. 19, when the village of Orland Park hosts its annual "Chilly Willie Chili Challenge." Now in its eighth year, Orland Park's annual contest draws competitors from across the country.
"The village's Chili Challenge is an annual winter favorite," said Orland Park Mayor Dan McLaughlin. "We have people from all over the country come to Orland Park to compete and our residents help by voting for their favorite chilies and serving as judges," the mayor said.
The village's competition is sanctioned by the International Chili Society (ICS) and the Chili Appreciation Society International (CASI). The winner of the ICS Competition at Orland Park will qualify to compete in the World Championship Chili Cook Off. The top winners in the CASI competition receive points to add to their totals qualifying cooks for the national competition held in Terlingua, Texas.
Cooks may compete in ICS traditional red, salsa, verde or homestyle and/or in CASI traditional red chili. Cooks must be active ICS members to compete in the ICS Competition. Contestants must be 18 years or older to compete.
"Chili is an art form at Orland Park's competition," said Trustee Pat Gira, chair of the village's Recreation and Parks Committee. "Orland Park is thrilled to host this annual contest, which is a fun afternoon in the middle of winter for so many people," she added.
The International Chili Society has added a new category for 2013 - homestyle. Designed for locals who have always wanted to enter their chili in a contest, this category permits beans, which are normally not allowed in the competition.
Cooks may compete in either red chili or homestyle but not both. The cost is $20 to compete for ICS members and $40 for non-members, which includes the $20 membership fee in ICS Homestyle. The membership fee allows a cook to compete in any homestyle contest for a year. ICS membership applications appear on the village's entry forms or cooks may join the organization on the day of the event.
All chili must be cooked from scratch on site on the day of Orland Park's Chili Challenge. Beans, macaroni, hominy or other similar ingredients are only permitted in the homestyle category.
"Every year, we hear about the many great chili cooks in Orland Park," McLaughlin said. "It's nice that the ICS has opened its competition, enabling local residents to compete with their homestyle recipes," the mayor said.
Contestants are required to cook a minimum of two quarts of competition chili plus an additional gallon for the People's Choice/Public Tasting. Judging is based on aroma, consistency, color, taste and after taste. Awards are presented to the top winners in each category.
Approximately 100 judges are needed to judge the event. Individuals interested in helping to judge Orland Park's competition should contact Patty Vlazny at 403-6145. Judges must be 18 years and older.
Public tasting at the competition begins at 2 p.m. and continues until the chili runs out. All-you-can-eat tasting cups will be available for purchase for $5 each with proceeds benefiting the Village of Orland Park Special Recreation Program.
"We encourage those who want to taste the chili to come as close to 2 p.m. as possible because this is a very popular event," Gira said.
The Orland Park Civic Center is located at 14750 South Ravinia Avenue, one block west of La Grange Road. Registration information and further details are available by calling the Village of Orland Park Recreation Department at 403-7275.