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Fans turn out for bowls of chili in Orland Park

Bill Ehrler left Nick Bratcher discusses finer points chili
preparatiwith Lil Darryl Wertheim during Chilly Willie
Chili Challenge OrlPark Saturday. | Steve

Bill Ehrler, left and Nick Bratcher discusses the finer points of chili preparation with Lil and Darryl Wertheim during the Chilly Willie Chili Challenge in Orland Park on Saturday. | Steve Metsch~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: February 28, 2014 6:24AM



On a chilly day, people were lined up outside the entrance of the Orland Park Civic Center on Saturday for a chili day.

The annual Chilly Willie Chili Challenge & Homestyle Cook-off held attracted dozens of chefs and hundreds of fans of the sometimes spicy concoction.

“It smells good. It smells even better when you get up here,” said Lil Wertheim as she and husband, Darryl neared the entrance. “We’ve read about it, and I said, ‘Why haven’t we gone? Let’s go.’ ”

Soon, they were sampling chili made by Bill Ehrler, of Orland Park.

Darryl Wertheim said he was impressed by the taste and the fact that no beans were in the recipe. That’s required for some contests, Ehrler said.

A couple of dozen chili recipes were available for sampling. Included was one prepared by Bill Lee, of Monee, and served up with smiles by his wife, Roxann Lee, and their friend Jerry Webster, of Tinley Park.

“I don’t put any weird meat in there, just some meat and spices that are hard to find. It’s a batch of love. I like to see people smile when they eat the chili,” said Lee, who made two vats so no one would go away hungry.

Gianna Witte, 12, of Orland Park, liked Lee’s chili. So did her mother, April Witte, who had a secret agenda.

“I love chili, but I make really good chili, so I come and see if I can learn new things. A lot of people are putting pepperoni and different sausage in instead of regular meat,” April Witte said.

There was no contest for the category, but had there been, “Best Name” may have been won by the “I don’t know what the hell to call it” chili prepared by Jeff Netser, of Seymour, Ind.

Two friends from Orland Park were judging the homestyle chili contest.

They both love chili, but have different tastes. Dawn Gabry likes her chili thick, flavorful and spicy, while Lori Mavrovic prefers more flavor, less spice.

One thing they they did agree on was that the chili contest is something they look forward to every winter.

And now. so do Lil and Darryl Wertheim.

“It’s a good thing to do this time of the year,” Darryl said.

“I feel like I have chili all over me. We won’t even have dinner tonight,” Lil said with a laugh.

Seasoned chefs from around the area and some from as far away as Texas participated in the cook-off. Some are in national associations and the contest was serious business.

And then there were “homestyle chili” contestants such as 18-year-old Grant Younger, of La Grange.

A senior at Lyons Township High School, Younger said he entered the contest just because he enjoys making chili and “it sounded like a fun thing to do.”



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