Houston is a place where cowboy culture meets sophisticated big city atmosphere, creating one of the county’s most unique travel destinations. This largest city in Texas (2.1 million residents) covers 8,778 square miles, which is almost as large as the entire state of Massachusetts.
The Houston Kosher Chili Cookoff is the biggest kosher food competition in Houston, and has grown annually since its inception seven years ago. The event will take place on February, 26 at the ERJCC (Evelyn Rubenstein Jewish Community Center), and will pit 32 teams of chili makers against each other to see who has the best kosher chili in town. A panel of at least 20 celebrity judges will determine the best recipe and will award the top three performers. Attendees will get to enjoy live music and entertainment, a raffle, silent auction, and of course, samples of some of the best chili in town. We got the opportunity to interview Steven Weiss, organizer of the event, to learn about this kosher cooking competition.
RAL: How long has the event been running?
SW: This will be the 7th Annual Houston Kosher Chili Cookoff. It was founded in 2010.
RAL: How many annual participants do you draw?
SW: We typically draw over 3,000 participants each year. We have 32 teams participating this year and more than 20 celebrity judges, which include elected officials and members of the media from the Houston area.
RAL: What is the typical demographic makeup of the event?
SW: The cookoff includes families, children, couples, grandparents, and everyone interested in joining the Jewish community for a special day of fun, food, and activities.
RAL: What makes this event unique?
SW: It’s the largest Kosher food event in the Houston area that is put on by a team of volunteer board members. This event is unique because it celebrates diversity through a dish most Texans enjoy. When you mix good comfort food with fun activities for the whole family, you can’t go wrong.
RAL: What activities will attendees encounter?
SW: We have a variety of activities:
Live music and entertainment
Inflatable cliff jump
RAL: Will there be any guest appearances?
SW: We typically have several elected officials and celebrity media judges join the event to judge chili and award the winning team trophies.
RAL: What dining options will attendees encounter?
SW: We have all-you-can-eat Kosher chili, food by Laykie’s Gourmet Café at the J, and additional Kosher items will be available for sale. Saint Arnold’s Brewery will also be sponsoring beer, and we typically have Kosher wine for adults.
RAL: What is the overall environment like?
SW: The Kosher Chili Cookoff is held outdoors and provides participants a festival-like experience. Live music will be played while teams of cooks encourage attendees to try their recipes to win the People’s Choice Award. It’s an exciting, competitive environment, but with a range of fun activities for all ages.
RAL: Does this drive business to your local economy?
SW: Yes, several community organizations and business are involved with the Houston Kosher Chili Cookoff. The event is held at the Evelyn Rubenstein Jewish Community Center, and it's sponsored by several local companies including Saint Arnold’s Brewery, Mostyn Law Firm, National Prosperity Health Matching Service, and more.
RAL: Does the event support a special cause in the community?
SW: Proceeds from the event will benefit the Jewish Day Schools including Beren Academy, Beth Yeshurun Day School, Emery Weiner, The Shlenker School, Torah Day School, Torah Girls Academy, Yeshiva Torat Emet and the Evelyn Rubenstein Jewish Community Center’s Meals on Wheels.
RAL: Why should people come to your event?
SW: The Houston Kosher Chili Cookoff is an unforgettable event where people from all backgrounds make incredible memories while eating chili, participating in fun activities outdoors, listening to live music, and experiencing the Jewish community’s culture in Houston. People come year after year to see over 30 teams from all over the city compete for the top chili awards while supporting local charities.
For more information about the Houston Kosher Chili Cookoff, please visit the event website.