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updated: 11/2/2013 6:32 PM

Waiters Race part of annual Chili Cook Off in Wheaton

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  • Courtney Windisch, who works at The Bank Restaurant in Wheaton, navigates obstacles in the Waiter Race, part of this year's Chili Cook Off in downtown Wheaton.

       Courtney Windisch, who works at The Bank Restaurant in Wheaton, navigates obstacles in the Waiter Race, part of this year's Chili Cook Off in downtown Wheaton.
    Elena Ferrarin | Staff Photographer


No one every made navigating orange cones and stepping into tires part of a waiter's job description, but the exercises aren't all that different from contending with crowded tables in a busy restaurant.

That was Courtney Windisch's take on participating in the first Waiters Race on Saturday afternoon in Wheaton, part of the fifth annual Chili Cook Off sponsored by the Downtown Wheaton Association.

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Altogether, 14 wait staff members from downtown establishments raced along the obstacle course set up on Front Street, carrying trays of glasses filled with water and rocks.

"It was fun," said Windisch, who works as a busser and food runner at The Bank Restaurant. "I didn't spill anything, and I felt like that was the most important thing."

The winner of the race was Mandi Duncan, a waitress at Suzette's Creperie, with a time of 44.77 seconds.

"It was spectacular," said Duncan, who got a small trophy, a $50 Visa gift card, and a bottle of red wine.

"The pressure was on, but my head was in the game and I made sure my hands were warm enough to hold the tray."

While the waiters raced, spectators cheered -- and gasped at spillages.

Wheaton residents Kay and Greg McKeen, along with Kay's sister Karen Carlson of Fox Lake, watched the race while eating bowls of chili. The trio planned to taste all 12 samples from different restaurants before casting their vote for best chili.

"It's so cute and clever," Kay McKeen said of the Waiters Race. "It's perfect weather for this and for the chili cookoff. You don't want to have chili when it's warm out."

Spencer Utz, a waiter at Ivy Restaurant, spilled water at the turnabout, which caused him to lose some points.

"I love being competitive, and it's kind of bringing us all together, too," he said. "We all know each other and we have a camaraderie, but this enhances it."

Ten-year-old Skylar Rasmason said the race was a lot of fun.

"It's really cool. It's funny," said Skylar, who came downtown on her new pink Razor scooter.

Her mother Megan Rasmason said the family has been enjoying all kinds of events in Wheaton since they moved to town less than two years ago.

"They have a lot of stuff," she said, "and it seems like everybody comes out every time."

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