Chili Cook-off to aid Humane Society, Rome Polish Home


Empire Plate’s first Chili Cook-off, to benefit the Humane Society of Rome and Rome Polish Home, will take place Tuesday, Jan. 9 at the Rome Polish Home, 415 S. George St.

Doors open at 5:30 p.m. and the sampling of chili will continue until 7 p.m. Tickets are $1 a sample or $15 to try all 20 recipes. For those of you who don’t like chili, Rome Polish Home will offer their own menu downstairs until 7:30 p.m.

There will be 20 local contestants and five celebrity judges. The winner of the contest will get a cash prize and be featured on The Empire Plate series to air in April. Children are encouraged to attend with parents and guardians, but pets are not allowed.

Beyond the delicious chili samples, attendees may shop from local vendors and listen to music from Eddie Arcuri. There will also be a 50/50 raffle, and a wide selection of items to be raffled. A collection drive will also be held for the Humane Society of Rome, so those who attend are encouraged to check out their wish list and bring items to donate.

“I wanted to give back to my community and felt that a chili cook-off is something I could do to raise awareness and money for two non-profits that I support,” Billy Vinci said. “I love food and I am very passionate about animals.”

Vinci is involved with the fourth season of Empire Plate, a show that travels throughout the state showcasing family-owned restaurants that airs on WKTV and Fox networks.

“I wanted to start 2018 by giving back to my hometown Rome,” said the Empire Plate owner and producer. “I am astonished at the support I am finding from the community to help with this event. The last few weeks I have been working with sponsors for the event, running around picking up donations and arranging volunteers to help.”

The Rome Polish Home and The Humane Society of Rome’s Medical Fund will benefit from the proceeds raised through the chili cook-off. All of the funds raised from the raffles, 50/50 and chili sample will be split between the two organizations, Vinci said.

“The Humane Society of Rome is very excited to participate in the chili cook-off,” said Katie Eastman, Humane Society of Rome fund-raiser. “It is a great way to raise funds and awareness for our medical fund.”

Kelly Conners Kulpa, voluntary executive board member and events coordinator for the Rome Polish Home, said the cook-off is a unique opportunity for the community to come see the center.

“We are happy to partake in this fund-raiser. This is an opportunity for the community to see our banquet hall that can be rented and also try some of our specialty Polish food,” Conners Kulpa said.

Chili Cook-off judges will be:

• Former Syracuse Orange Basketball player Eugene Waldron.

• Former contestant on NBC network’s The Voice, Shawn Smith.

• Professional Wrestler and Professor at Mohawk Valley Community College, Bin Hamin. 

• Tommy Lamach of Utica Area Restaurant Review and Utica native.

• Utica College Pioneer Men’s Hockey Head Coach Gary Heenan.

Empire plate was created in 2015. Vinci and his son, Ryan, co-own and produce the show. Ryan works as a director, and Bill hosts the show. Empire plate is entering its fourth season, and has produced more than 155 episodes.


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