Chili cookoff to benefit Legacy Events for Education

The inaugural event will kick off at noon Saturday, Feb. 19, at the Hamlin Town Center.

David Terry
David Terry
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Color, aroma, consistency, taste and aftertaste. 

David Terry, CASI Terlingua International Championship qualifier, said these five criteria can help anyone judge a good bite of chili. 

Terry and nine of the other top chili chefs in the country are headed to West Orange this month for the inaugural Central Florida Chili Cookoff

All proceeds raised at the event will go toward Legacy Events for Education, of which Terry also serves as president. 

Although the organization has put together events in the past, such as the holiday and spring markets, the highly anticipated cookoff is set to be one of the biggest events of the year to take place in Horizon West. 

The fundraising event aims to support local students and teachers through the sampling of more than 60 chilis created by chefs, residents, restaurants and organizations. 

Locals will be able to enjoy a bite from food trucks and dessert vendors while also enjoying live music, participate in a blind-draw doubles cornhole tournament, sip on adult and family-friendly refreshments, and play in a Kids Zone area.  

“Our goal is that you come out, have fun and raise money by accident,” Terry said. “I don’t want you to be there thinking you’re at a fundraiser; I want you to be there thinking ‘I’m at a community event having fun with my neighbors’ — and we’re going to make money for our schools while we’re at it.”

As part of CASI, the Chili Appreciation Society International, cooks will also be able to submit their chili in competitive categories, including the CASI traditional no-filter chili, the open category where anything goes, restaurant, vegetarian, showmanship and people’s choice. 

Several local organizations are showing their support for the nonprofit through their various event sponsorship levels. 

Orlando Health will serve as the presenting sponsor, and Terry will be making its chili.

Brian Wetzel, hospital president for Orlando Health’s Horizon West Hospital medical campus, said it’s important for Orlando Health to be an active participant in the growing community that it is fortunate to serve in.

“The inaugural Central Florida Chili Cookoff provides us with a terrific opportunity to return the favor and show support for the people and organizations that have supported us greatly over the past few years,” he said. “Simply put, it’s neighbors taking care of neighbors.”

Other participating sponsors include Horizon West Happenings, Observer Media Group, Sonata West and Rubert Designs.

“I can’t speak highly enough about the people that are coming out,” Terry said. “The support we’ve gotten, I mean, we wouldn’t be here without them, both big and small organizations.” 

He said the event is an homage to Events for Change, an organization dedicated to providing unique public and private events where proceeds are donated to deserving local charities and other not-for-profit organizations.

Events for Change helps to put together the Orlando Chili Cookoff, which has run for the past 11 years, although it had been postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic. 


The Chili Appreciation Society was the original organizer of the first chili championship in Terlingua in 1967. 

Each year, CASI sanctions nearly 400 domestic and international chili cook-offs as qualifying events for the CASI Terlingua International Chili Championship. 

The championship event serves as a fundraiser for Terlingua charities and organizations while also funding CASI's scholarship programs.

The sanctioned events held across the world raise approximately $1 million annually for the local and national charities that work with the cookoff organizers.

As part of CASI, Terry has traveled across the state of Florida and beyond competitively cooking chili for eight years. 


Legacy Events for Education began as the Wolverine Legacy Fund in 2017 and was founded to award monetary grants to support and enhance Windermere High School’s academics, arts and athletics. 

After bringing in more than $60,000 in donations to the school, the board launched a new and separate organization called Legacy Events for Education last spring.  

The nonprofit’s mission is to put together large-scale events in West Orange County to raise funds for scholarships and grants to students and teachers at local schools. 

Terry said with the increasing costs of both college tuition and school expenses not covered by the district, community support is needed more than ever. 

“It’s all about building this western Orange community,” he said. 

The president said he was inspired by the program’s first scholarship class, which consisted of two students who “blew his mind.”

One of the students, who suffered from an eating disorder, started a hotline for at-risk teenagers while the other gathered T-shirts and ties as part of his Eagle Scout project for children in the Dominican Republic. He even flew the clothing to the small village using his own money. 

“The kids that I have met in the last three years are enough to keep me going for many years to come,” Terry said.

The president even helped to construct the sunshade outside the student union at Windermere High. 

“The motivation that I get from seeing what these kids can accomplish when given the opportunity is just amazing,” he continued. “My goal is to help encourage these kids that 20 years from now they’re sitting where we are today and making a difference in the community. They’re not just doing volunteer hours because they have to; they genuinely have a passion for these types of efforts.”

Terry said he and the other board members hope to continue to grow the program in the future. 

“Let's make a difference in as many children’s lives as we can,” he said. 

Legacy’s next event will be the spring market April 9. 

The president said the organization is always looking for help and is still accepting sponsors. 

“I think any person from a nonprofit will tell you that there’s never enough volunteers,” he said. “It really is a labor of love, but I couldn’t be more thankful for it.”


David Terry, one of the top chili chefs in the country, shares his tips on getting the most out of your chili experience.

• Color —We eat with our eyes! Chili should have an appealing appearance. Chili should be viewed in good light and be red in color. Excessive grease should not mask the appearance. 

• Aroma — Smell really can be the deciding factor in many people’s food choices. Chili should smell good. A good aroma is a tipoff to good taste. Beware of foreign aromas or bad smells.

• Consistency — Chili should be a good meat-and-gravy combination. Chili should not be dry, watery, grainy, lumpy or greasy, but good and smooth. Meat should be tender but not broken down. Chili should not melt in your mouth!

• Taste — Chili should taste good above all else. Although individual opinions will vary, a really good taste will stand out. “You can cook my recipe, but you can’t cook my chili!”

• Aftertaste -—Residual taste should be pleasant and not bitter, metallic or foul. Also present may be an afterbite, which is that glow that develops in the mouth (front bite) and throat (back bite) that says this is chili rather than soup or stew. 


WHAT: Central Florida Chili Cookoff

WHEN: Noon Saturday, Feb. 19

WHERE: Hamlin Town Center, 14422 Shoreside Way, Winter Garden

TICKETS: Click here. 




Annabelle Sikes

News Editor Annabelle Sikes was born in Boca Raton and moved to Orlando in 2018 to attend the University of Central Florida. She graduated from UCF in May 2021 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a minor in sociology. Her past journalism experiences include serving as a web producer at the Orlando Sentinel, a reporter at The Community Paper, managing editor for NSM Today, digital manager at Centric Magazine and as an intern for the Orlando Weekly.

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