Couple ready to face off in Orland Park chili competition
BY MIKE NOLAN email@example.com December 28, 2012 3:24PM
Loretta & Jose Torres, of Orland Park. | File photo
Updated: January 31, 2013 6:06AM
While they may be partners in marriage, Jose and Loretta Torres are fierce competitors when it comes to making chili.
The Orland Park couple are at work tweaking their entries for the village’s annual “Chilly Willie Chili Challenge,” which will be held Jan. 19 at the Orland Park Civic Center, 14750 Ravinia Ave.
“I don’t know what she puts in hers, and she doesn’t know what goes in mine,” said Jose Torres, who’s worked as a chef at Rock Bottom Restaurant & Brewery in Orland Park for nearly three years.
The event draws competitors from around the country, and 38 cooks took part last year. It is sanctioned by the International Chili Society and the Chili Appreciation Society International.
Torres has been a competitor in the event for several years, even driving in from Rockford before he and his wife moved to Orland Park in 1998. The couple have been married 12 years, and Torres said his wife first competed with him in Chilly Willie about 10 years ago.
“I just asked her ‘Why don’t you cook chili with me?’ ” he said.
Last year, Torres received the “People’s Choice Award” as the unanimous choice among members of the public who came to sample the chilis. He said he takes part in four or five chili competitions each year.
Torres says he experiments with chili variations “throughout the year,” and that at Rock Bottom in early November he paired foods, including different types of chili he prepared, with beers that featured chilies and peppers as ingredients.
Competitors in Chilly Willie have to cook their chili from scratch and on site the day of the contest. In past years, cooks were limited to the traditional red, salsa or verde chilis, but the International Chili Society has added a “homestyle” category this year that permits nontraditional ingredients such as beans, macaroni or hominy.
Torres said he’s a judge in a Jan. 4 chili competition held by the Brewers of South Suburbia, a club of home brew enthusiasts. He said that, for whoever wins the contest, he’ll pay their fee to enter the Orland Park competition in the homestyle category.
Contestants need to prepare a minimum of two quarts of competition chili, plus another gallon for the public tasting that determines the People’s Choice award.
Public tasting at the Chilly Willie challenge starts at 2 p.m. and continues until the chili runs out. All-you-can-eat tasting cups cost $5, with proceeds helping the village’s special recreation program.
Also, about 100 judges are needed for the event. For information on being a judge, contact Patty Vlazny at (708) 403-6145.