Bring on the beans.
The legumes finally have a place at the table for the Chilly Willie Chili Challenge Saturday, Jan. 19, in Orland Park.
"We added the home-style category," explained event coordinator Patty Vlazny. "There's red chili; there's green, which is a verde chili; there's salsa, and the home style. The home style has no restrictions on what can be put in it, whereas the other chilis, for judging purposes, cannot have any beans or fillers."
The event, which the village has sponsored for at least a decade, starts at 2 p.m. Saturday at the Orland Park Civic Center. More than 30 cooks are competing.
"We had a little over 200 people who came in to test the chili last year, and I expect the same this year," said Vlazny, Orland's special events manager. "It's amazing how many people love chili. What's better on a cold Saturday in January?"
For the admission price of $5, attendees can taste as much chili as they like. Each contestant is required to cook up a gallon for tasting and a couple of quarts for the dozens of volunteers who will be judging.
The event is considered a regional competition by the International Chili Society and the Chili Appreciation Society International. Winners earn points toward competing in broader competitions.
Every attendee gets to vote for the People's Choice Award. Orland Park chef Jose Torres captured the title the past two years and is expected to try for a three-peat.
Proceeds from the event and an accompanying raffle will go toward the Orland Park Special Recreation Program, which organizes events for those with special needs.