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.
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Jerome had a ready response to that: “The judges are available to be bought, but it has to be part of the charity auction, so tell us how much you want to contribute.”

Still, secrecy is zealously maintained. The judges, all of them volunteers, spend the whole cook-off sequestered in an “undisclosed location,” guarded by an officer of the Dallas Police Department, and to which runners bring number-only identified sample cups of red-hot goodness.

Or sometimes not, judge David Feder said, admitting, “Some of these tasted like bug spray.” Judge Harriet Gross revealed, “I heard another judge say, ‘If one is the lowest, give this one zero.” Still, both agree that the flavor standard is much higher this year, also noting trends like “heavy on the cumin,” “less garlic” and “an almost complete drop-off in cilantro.”

Feder and Gross were joined on the judging panel by a range of others, including a professional chef and two members of the Dallas City Council. This type of mix is intentional, Jerome said, noting, “If you live in Texas, you’re a chili expert anyway.” Unsurprisingly, the judges’ most heated arguments were not about chilis, but about “school charter policy.”

In the end, neither Moishe House nor those upstart free-loan givers held the winning ladle, as the top three judges’ honors went to a Camp Young Judea/Tel Yehudah joint team, Henry Litoff, and the Ann & Nate Levine Academy (with top “veggie honors” grudgingly going to the home team, Tiferet Israel).

But Prescott remains above the fray — and not just because his pick, Akiba Academy, didn’t make the top three. “The win for us is not whether our chili is first, second or third. The win for us is seeing the community come out in droves to have a good time, to meet and greet other people in the community, and to eat kosher.”

Rob Kutner is a writer for “Conan” and previously “The Daily Show With Jon Stewart.” After the March 30 cook-off, his colon is still not speaking to him.

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