Fishtown: Chili Cook-off Quickly Becomes Neighborhood Favorite

Fishtown residents numbed their tongues this past weekend with spicy chili to benefit neighborhood organizations. The Second Annual Fishtown Neighbors Association Chili Cookoff at 2424 Studios on 2424 E. York St. brought local food and drink enthusiasts to enjoy some of the area’s best recipes. Entrants of 10 different Fishtown restaurants and 15 Fishtown residents put their Crock-Pots full of homemade chili to the taste test.

Melissa Yerkov (left) is assisted by friend, and fellow journalist, Hayden Mitman (right), with dishing out her homemade chili.

FNA President Jill Betters helped establish the cook-off to fill a “neighborhood programming gap between December and the spring schedule,” and the chili cook-off was the idea that won.

“We have residents contributing their recipes, as well as restaurants, and we have beer donated by local nano-brewies,” Betters said, “The whole neighborhood has been involved.”

A panel of celebrity judges consisting of Pennsylvania 175th District State Rep. Mike O’Brien, City Paper Meal Ticket writer Drew Lazor and former Philadelphia Magazine food critic Joy Manning were chosen to grade each chili dish. In addition, patrons voted in the “people’s choice” category and elected their favorite chili recipes.

“We were very successful last year, and I think it’s [an event] we will put on for quite a while,” Betters said.

Residential entrants Melissa Yerkov and Hayden Mitman, under the moniker “Feed Your Mind,” were first-time competitors, but Yerkov was sure her grandmother’s chili recipe could compete with the best.

“My family members are huge football fans, and we’re always getting complements on our chili, so I’m happy to enter my grandmother, Clara’s recipe,” Yerkov said.

The proceeds of the cook-off help underwrite the formation of the new Riverwards Crimewatch, helping with startup costs of the new organization that aims to create a safer neighborhood.