Austinites gather for 15th Annual Jo's Chili Cook-off on South Congress

A big crowd turned out for the 15th annual Jo’s Chili Cook-off as it returned to South Austin Sunday—after being canceled last year due to the winter storm.

"We didn’t expect this kind of people to come out today, but I think they’re out here because they’re tired of being home," said chili cook Ray Salazar.

Live music and the smell of delicious chili filled the air along South Congress Avenue. Chefs from Austin and beyond went head-to-head to test out their recipes, with chili lovers getting to sample it all—and then cast their votes for the best. 

Austinites came out to celebrate Jo's Annual Chili Cook-off after it was canceled due to the winter storm last year.

"We don’t work for no company. We’re not a chef at any restaurant. Our recipe comes from cooking so many years, and every year we try to improve it, so it’ll be better," said Salazar.

Salazar has been taking part in competitions all over the country and honing his recipe for 40 years.

"We go to Louisiana, we go to Oklahoma, we go to Kansas, Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona, and come back to Austin, Texas," said Salazar.

The annual contest is a collaboration between Jo’s Coffee and their next-door neighbor—the Hotel San Jose.

Proceeds benefit the nonprofit Free Lunch, which works to tackle food insecurity in Austin—putting a smile on people’s faces in more ways than one.

"When we come and do this chili cook-off, we try to make our customers feel perfect and happy and appreciate what we’re giving them," said Salazar.

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