Lake Zurich fire fighters battle in chili cook-off
Justin Pathman dishes out a sample of one of the chili entries Oct. 25 during the Lake Zurich Fire Department's annual chili cook-off. | Michelle LaVigne ~ Sun-Times Media
Updated: December 2, 2012 6:43AM
LAKE ZURICH — Lake Zurich Fire Rescue trucks were parked outside last week to make room for the department’s 12th annual chili cook-off.
“It’s become quite a competition among the firefighters,” said Guy Trayling, assistant fire marshal for the department. “Everyone has their own unique recipes.”
Administrative captain John Kelly and fire inspector John Bzdusek tied for first place with 11 votes each.
Kelly has entered the competition every year, but he broke through last week with his first win.
Bzdusek said he relied on an old family recipe to win.
“Now we can brag for the whole year,” he said.
Neither Kelly or Bzdusek would give away their winning recipes.
There were 12 total entries in the contest, and each submission was judged on taste, texture and flavor.
The winners received a “Golden Spoon” plaque and a $100 gift card to Whole Foods, a cosponsor for the cook-off. The second prize is a $50 gift certificate to Whole Foods while third place takes home a $25 gift card.
“We have a lot of fun,” Trayling said. “We get a wide variety of different people.”
Whole Foods also reimburses the firefighters for their ingredients and provides tablecloths, desserts and other items for the event.
“It’s a social event, so we don’t expect the firefighters to fund it out of their own pockets,” he said. “It’s been a great partnership to work with.”
Dale Perrin, executive director of the Lake Zurich Chamber of Commerce, said the cook-off also is a networking event for chamber members. The cook-off served as one of the group’s monthly Business After Hours gatherings.
“It’s to network and build that business to business relationship,” Perrin said.
He added that the cook-off has proved to be the chamber’s most popular Business After Hours event of the year, usually drawing a couple hundred people.
“It’s a very fun event,” he said. “It’s a good atmosphere.”
Tanya Kostetsky, who is the marketing and community relations specialist for the Palatine Whole Foods store, said the event provides the grocery store a wide array of benefits as well.
“It’s such a well-known event,” she said. “It’s a great opportunity for us to connect with other members of the chamber. We try to be as present as possible in the community.”
Petra Croneigh, a sales consultant at Lake Zurich Travel, which also cosponsored the event, said she and her coworkers have always been happy to help out at the cook-off.
“It gives us an opportunity to show our support within the community,” she said.