Kosher Chili Cook-Off Builds Jewish Unity Deep in Heart of Texas

Building Bridges One Blazing Hot Bowl at a Time

Hot Moishe! The winner of the People’s Choice award at the 2014 Dallas Kosher Chili Cookoff was Moishe House, represented by Austin Litoff (with big stirrer), an alumnus, with residents Jaycee Greenblatt (center) and Elissa Riesenfeld (right).
rob kutner
Hot Moishe! The winner of the People’s Choice award at the 2014 Dallas Kosher Chili Cookoff was Moishe House, represented by Austin Litoff (with big stirrer), an alumnus, with residents Jaycee Greenblatt (center) and Elissa Riesenfeld (right).

By Rob Kutner

Published April 03, 2014, issue of April 18, 2014.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

“You want to try the Republican chili?”

That’s the kind of invitation I got, repeatedly, from many of the 50 contestants at this year’s Dallas Kosher Chili Cookoff. And after trying the Republican Jewish Coalition’s surprisingly garlicky spoonful, I faced a Jewish institutional smorgasbord. Whose culinary sensibilities would I sample next — those of the Anti-Defamation League, or those of the Hebrew Men’s Poker Association?

“It’s like a giant Kiddush,” Dallas Kosher supervisor Rabbi Sholey Klein said about the cook-off, now in its 21st year. It’s arguably the best-attended annual Jewish event in Dallas, attracting crowds in the thousands.

And beyond the numbers, it’s an appealing stew that attracts participants from diverse parts of the community. Judy Safern, president of public relations firm Leading Thinkers and my guide for the day, pointed out “a left-wing shul serving chili side by side with a right-wing outreach organization.”

For event co-chair Ed Jerome, this is the point: “We have the Democrats, we have the Republicans, from the nonaffiliated all the way through the black hats.”

It’s also the rare Jewish event where (nearly all) the organizations reach ideological agreement on one point: “Vegetarian chili isn’t chili.” (Though don’t tell that to the hopefuls in the “veggie chili” competition.)

Achieving unity through chili was the brainchild of Dan Prescott, former vice president of the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas. He put the initial event together along with fellow members of Tiferet Israel — A Traditional Congregation, Jack Baum and Mark Kleinman. Prescott said that in the early 1990s, “the community was a little fractured, and we were looking for a way for everybody in the Dallas Jewish community to pull together, find some common ground. Since we’re Jewish, we thought food, and since we’re Texas, we thought chili.”

In its first year, 1993, the event attracted 12 teams and 600 attendees and, Prescott said, “we went to Home Depot and got paint-stirrer sticks to stir the chili with.” This year, it featured 50 teams and more than 4,000 attendees, and “we’ve graduated to large spoons.”


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Former Israeli National Security Advisor Yaakov Amidror: “A cease-fire will mean that anytime Hamas wants to fight it can. Occupation of Gaza will bring longer-term quiet, but the price will be very high.” What do you think?
  • Should couples sign a pre-pregnancy contract, outlining how caring for the infant will be equally divided between the two parties involved? Just think of it as a ketubah for expectant parents:
  • Many #Israelis can't make it to bomb shelters in time. One of them is Amos Oz.
  • According to Israeli professor Mordechai Kedar, “the only thing that can deter terrorists, like those who kidnapped the children and killed them, is the knowledge that their sister or their mother will be raped."
  • Why does ultra-Orthodox group Agudath Israel of America receive its largest donation from the majority owners of Walmart? Find out here: http://jd.fo/q4XfI
  • Woody Allen on the situation in #Gaza: It's “a terrible, tragic thing. Innocent lives are lost left and right, and it’s a horrible situation that eventually has to right itself.”
  • "Mark your calendars: It was on Sunday, July 20, that the momentum turned against Israel." J.J. Goldberg's latest analysis on Israel's ground operation in Gaza:
  • What do you think?
  • "To everyone who is reading this article and saying, “Yes, but… Hamas,” I would ask you to just stop with the “buts.” Take a single moment and allow yourself to feel this tremendous loss. Lay down your arms and grieve for the children of Gaza."
  • Professor Dan Markel, 41 years old, was found shot and killed in his Tallahassee home on Friday. Jay Michaelson can't explain the death, just grieve for it.
  • Employees complained that the food they received to end the daily fast during the holy month of Ramadan was not enough (no non-kosher food is allowed in the plant). The next day, they were dismissed.
  • Why are peace activists getting beat up in Tel Aviv? http://jd.fo/s4YsG
  • Backstreet's...not back.
  • Before there was 'Homeland,' there was 'Prisoners of War.' And before there was Claire Danes, there was Adi Ezroni. Share this with 'Homeland' fans!
  • BREAKING: Was an Israeli soldier just kidnapped in Gaza? Hamas' military wing says yes.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.