Tiferet Israel's kosher chili cook-off returns this weekend for the 18th year -- a milestone that's the Jewish timekeeping equivalent of a silver anniversary, thanks to Hebrew numerology -- with its biggest-ever field of contestants.
Cook-off chairman Scott Janco reports 47 teams have registered for the event.
"It's going to be a little more crowded than in the past, but we'll get through it," Janco says.
The event usually draws upward of 2,000 attendees, but Janco thinks weather and increased interest could conspire to produce a crowd of more than 3,000 people on Sunday morning.
The cook-off, which this year benefits agencies fighting hunger, has been replicated at congregations from St. Louis to Rhode Island, but Janco says everybody recognizes Tiferet Israel as the idea's originator.
"They freely admit they borrowed from us," Janco says.
After 18 years, many of the competitors have figured out how to best enjoy the festival. Janco says a veteran competitor shared his secret at a recent team meeting.
"He says, 'Here's what you do,'" Janco says. "'You sample around 30 chilis, go back, get the best one, and then go to the food court tent. Now you've got a kosher chili dog!'"
Since competitors must keep their chilis kosher, all of the entries are prepared on-site, using the same ground beef. But Janco confirms the chilis all have distinct flavors -- and one chili seems to always garner the most positive reviews.
"Chabad of Plano," Janco says when asked whether there's a team to beat this year. "They've won three out of the last four years."
The cook-off runs from 10:30 a.m.-4 p.m. at Congregation Tiferet Israel, 10909 Hillcrest Road.