Cook-Off Warm-Up: Two Local Chili Lovers Tell Us How They Like It

Lincoln-Way North High School holds its annual chili cook-off Saturday.

What makes a good chili?

That's what the judges at the will determine Saturday. The fundraiser, which benefits 's athletic programs, runs from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the school's cafeteria, and it costs 50 cents to sample each recipe.

We, however, decided to get a jump on the flavorful fun and ask two local connoisseurs how they like their chili.

Mary Bandera, owner of in Frankfort

The chili Bandera serves at her restaurant has a earned quite a tasty reputation in the village. And the secret to her savory success is pretty straightforward.

"Use simple and fresh ingredients," she said. "It doesn't have to be totally off the wall. This (chili I make) is specifically for the restaurant. And everything is fresh. Spices. Fresh ground beef. And no preservatives."

When it comes to other characteristics of a good chili--like beans, thickness and kick--Bandera says that's up to personal preference. Caffe Milan's chili isn't very spicy because most customers aren't big fans of too much spice, she added. But sometimes she'll make a five-alarm chili and squeeze fresh jalapeno peppers into the mix at the end.

Bandera, however, is a big fan of topping a chili, whether it's with onions, sour cream or cheese.

"If I wasn't on Weight Watchers, I'd top (chili) with the Himalayan Mountains," she said. "Then I'd probably look like the Himalayan Mountains the next day."

Jason Isdonas, kindergarten principal at

In his first year as kindergarten principal, Isdonas expected to be doing some work off school hours but not like this. He's been drafted as one of the judges for Saturday's competition, and he's looking forward to it.

"I prefer beans, I prefer ground beef, chunks of tomatoes, a stew like consistencey," he said. "And I like spice. I know people put cinamon or brown sugar, but I prefer a spicy chili."

Fourth Annual L-W North High School Chili Cook-Off

When: 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 29
Cost: 50 cents to sample each recipe. 


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