Chicago Area Chefs Fire It Up at International Fiery Foods Challenge

Lamb Vindaloo, Cochinita Pibil and Spicy Pork Sisig are set to ignite taste buds at the International Fiery Foods Challenge, presented Saturday, January 28, 2 – 4 p.m., as part of the Travel & Adventure Show at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center, January 28-29. Three area chefs will prepare the dishes before a live audience, who will sample the dishes and vote for the winner in three categories: Crowd Favorite, Balanced Flame and Hottest Flame. Everyone also gets to take home the recipes.

  • Chicago native Hiran Patel (presented by Indonesia) offers a lamb dish that is anything but mild on the tongue. Lamb Vindaloo is spiced with ghost chili, considered the hottest chili on Earth. It is also flavored with red wine, coconut milk, cardamom, resham patti (ground red chilies) and jaggery (unrefined sugar). Patel is Sous Chef at Bombay Spice, consultant to Klay Oven and was head chef at Veerasway when the restaurant received the Michelin bib gourmand award in 2011.
  • Chef Martin Cabrera (presented by the Mexico Tourism Board) goes whole hog with Cochinita Pibil, a slow-roasted pork dish originating in southern Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. Typically, the pork is marinated in the juice of Seville or bitter oranges, colored with achiote (annatto seed), wrapped in a banana leaf, and then slowly roasted and served with a fiery, pickled onion-habanero salsa. Cabrera is a native of Mexico who has worked in kitchens across Europe, including in Lisbon, Madrid, Barcelona, Stockholm, Norway, France and Italy. In the U.S., he has worked at Spago and Charlie Trotters.
  • David Hilo (presented by the Philippines Department of Tourism) returns after being voted overall favorite at the 2011 Fiery Foods Challenge. He’ll present another pork dish — Spicy Pork Sisig. Sisig is a very popular dish in the Philippines, featuring both heat from chilies and heat from calamansi fruit (Philippine limes.) Hilo has trained in Chicago at Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts-Chicago.

Since Padma Lakshmi had a previous commitment, (small joke), Chicago native Mark DeCarlo will serve as MC for the event. For four seasons on The Travel Channel’s “Taste of America with Mark DeCarlo,” Mark rode the road less traveled in search of delicious food and the unsung American zealots who champion personal recipes and down-home stories over mass produced mush. It took 400 cities, but through it all, a portrait of America… and its genuinely strange people emerged. These hilarious characters are profiled in Mark’s book, A FORK ON THE ROAD: 400 Cities, One Stomach. (DeCarlo will sign copies of his book after the Fiery Foods Challenge.)

DeCarlo will also host a cooking challenge for consumers on Sunday, January 29, from 2:30 – 3:30 p.m. He’ll select three audience members, who will be asked to create their version of a simple dish such as guacamole. Again, the audience will taste and judge, with the winner receiving a vacation to Mexico’s Yucatan region.

The Travel & Adventure Show opens Saturday, January 28, from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. and Sunday, January 29, from 11 a.m. – 4 p.m. at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont. (The show opens 9:30 a.m. Saturday for travel professionals.) Adult admission is $9 online with Promo Code: CHPR or $15 at the door. Children 16 year of age and under are free.

The Travel and Adventure Show is the longest-running series of consumer travel events in the U.S. with shows in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Washington D.C., and Dallas. The Official Travel Agency Partner is AAA Travel. Broadcast Sponsor is ABC 7 Chicago. The national magazine sponsor is Arthur Frommer’s Budget Travel. For more information on attending or exhibiting in the event, please visit or call 203-878-2577 x100.