Seven contestants showcased their signature chili recipes at St. Charles Episcopal Church's first chili cook-off on Saturday.
A spectrum of flavors, textures and spiciness were represented in the homemade dishes, six of which featured different meats and one a vegetarian option.
A savory pork shoulder chili, brought by church member and contestant Dallas Heikkinen of Batavia, even included chocolate as an ingredient.
A panel of professional judges led by Elgin Community College Culinary Arts professor and chef Mike Zema, who is a parishioner of the church, gave first place honors to Rob Ulaszek of St. Charles for his "Smokey the Bear Chili: Green Chili Pork Stew."
Ulaszek said he was pleasantly surprised, but adds with a chuckle that he got a little nervous when his wife, Lisel, took third place with her recipe.
He describes his smokey flavored pork butt and roasted peppers chili as being "very flavorful" and on the milder side."It's got the kind of heat that kind of sneaks up on you ... that sort of subtle heat."
Chili enthusiast Erik Balisi of Batavia, and his son, Eli, 9, were impressed with the wide spectrum of chili flavors. The two couldn't be farther apart though on their taste spectra. Erik says "the spicier, the better" while Eli likes mild chilies.
All funds raised go toward St. Charles ministries. More information about the church is at stcharlesepiscopal.org.