• Megann Horstead

Annual State Championship Chili Cook-off heats up downtown Batavia


Hundreds of people sampled more than 25 different chili recipes Saturday at the 24th annual State Championship Chili Cook-off in Batavia.

The state-organized competition at the Batavia Riverwalk was organized with Batavia Chamber of Commerce and the Batavia Park District.

Holly Deitchman, president of the Batavia Chamber of Commerce, said many people return to the chili cook-off year after year.

“They love coming back and tasting this special kind of chili,” Dietchman said.

More than 300 people attended this year’s event. On average, the event brings about 250 people for sampling, she said.

Ron Gustin, of Batavia, said this was his second time sampling the various chili recipes made available to the public.

“I just like trying chili,” he said.

Gustin attended the event with his children and their dog, which kept begging to sample the chili.

“He didn’t get any, though,” Gustin said.

He added that he thinks the secret to the perfect chili recipe is having the right mix of ingredients.

“I like all the meaty chilis,” Gustin said. “I like the spice.”

He noted how salsas were added to the lineup of dishes made available for sampling this year, which he said added a unique twist.

Deitchman said the Batavia Chamber of Commerce likes to host events such as the chili cook-off to draw new crowds to the community.

Chili fanatics from across the state participated in the competition, which includes three categories: the Chili Appreciation Society International-sanctioned state championship, the traditional category, which includes a restaurant division; and a new salsa division.

Michael Gastaldello, 21, of Downers Grove, was one of many cooks making chili as part of this year’s competition. Gastaldello said while he first started competing at age 18, he’s been attending the State Championship Chili Cook-off since age 7.

Gastaldello noted the many reactions people hold when they try his recipe. He said people tend to respond positively to the chili.

“The key to serving chili is to keep it well heated—not too hot, not too cold,” he said. “That’s the biggest factor in whether they’re going to like it.”

Gastaldello said he’s performed well in past chili cook-offs, and that makes him hopeful he’ll continue that trend.

“I’m hoping to win,” he said.

More than 50 judges were on hand to evaluate and assess the recipes during the competition.

In November, the top winners of the cook-off will travel to Terlingua, Texas, where participants can compete in the Chili Appreciation Society International-sanctioned national championships.

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