Enjoying the Chili in the Park festivities were, from left, Palos Park Mayor John Mahoney, John Gastaldello and Briana Gastaldallo. The Gastaldallos are from Downers Grove and Brianna finished fifth in the competition. Photo by Jeff Vorva

Enjoying the Chili in the Park festivities were, from left, Palos Park Mayor John Mahoney, John Gastaldello and Briana Gastaldallo. The Gastaldallos are from Downers Grove and Brianna finished fifth in the competition. Photo by Jeff Vorva

Former world champ wins Chili in the Park cookoff

By Jeff Vorva

Of course, he won.

He was once a world champion. He is used to it.

Rockton’s Jim Weller made the trip to Palos Park on Saturday and won the village’s Chili in the Park competition, which was held outdoors behind the recreation center. The event has been held indoors in the winter in the past but this year because of COVID-19 concerns, it was moved to April and held outside on a sunny day.

Indoors or outdoors, Weller is a favorite to win most competitions. In 2000, his Macktown Chili won the International Chili Society’s world championship in Laughlin, Nebraska on an October weekend that saw temperatures hit triple digits. His wife, Georgia, won a world title in 1996.

“We pretty much stick with our same recipe,” Jim Weller said. “The only thing we do is adjust the heat a little bit.”

Weller and his wife usually compete in 20-30 cookoffs per year but in 2020, they were limited to three. After they both had COVID-19 and Jim had surgery during the off time, he was glad to be competing.

“It feels so good to get out and cook,” he said. “It feels great.””

Ken Plaida of Streamwood earned the People’s Choice Award

“I’ve won at this cookoff twice,” he said. “I won it inside and won it outside. This is a good place to cook. They treat us nice.”

Mayor John Mahoney said numbers of tasters and cooks were down this year and it was hard to market the event because organizers did not know if there would be enough cooks to have a contest. But he said he was pleased the village was able to host and even after so many events were cancelled in 2020 because of the pandemic.

Ken Plaida of Streamwood, left, won the People’s Choice award at Saturday’s Chili in the Park event. He is posing with Palos Park Mayor John Mahoney during the award ceremony. Photo by Jeff Vorva

 

Jim Weller of Rockton won the Chili in the Park competition Saturday in Palos Park. Weller is a previous  International Chili Society World Champion. Photo by Jeff Vorva

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