Arts & Entertainment

Cedar Grove Chili Cookoff Fundraiser for Bill 'No Fear' Fearon Draws Huge Crowd

Fearon family and competition judges sporting "No Fear" bracelets Credits: John Kennedy
Bill and Janice Fearon Credits: Jonathan Sym
Cedar Grove Fire Department's Chili Competition Fundraiser Credits: Jonathan Sym
Chef Ariane Duarte (left) with Chef Amanda Freitag.  Chef Francesco Palmieri (right). Credits: Jonathan Sym
Cedar Grove fire fighters, Joe Cirasa (right), lead organizer. Credits: Jonathan Sym
Cedar Grove Mayor Joe Chiusolo (left) with Bill Fearon. Credits: Jonathan Sym
(left-right): Chef Amanda Freitag, Steve Weatherford, Chef Ariane Duarte, Chef Francesco Palmieri. Credits: Jonathan Sym
Cheryl and Kevin Brown of TAP Verona/Cedar Grove.  Their chili made the finals, top 12.   Credits: Jonathan Sym
Chef Freitag and Chef Palmieri scoring the 35+ chili dishes entered in the competition. Credits: Jonathan Sym
View of the fundraiser from the stage. Credits: Jonathan Sym
Cedar Grove firefighters supporting the fundraiser. Credits: Jonathan Sym
(left-right): Chef Duarte, Joe Cirasa and Chef Freitag Credits: John Kennedy
Cheryl Brown, owner of TAP Verona/Cedar Grove, with U.S. Congressman Rodney Frelinghuysen. Credits: TAP Verona/Cedar Grove Staff
First place winner of the chili competition Jim Marshall (right) pictured with his son, John, and wife, Carol.   Credits: Jonathan Sym
Chef Amanda Freitag and Cedar Grove Mayor Joe Chiusolo. Credits: John Kennedy
The Fearon family with guest judges. Credits: John Kennedy
The Fearon Family, judges and members of the Cedar Grove Fire Department Credits: John Kennedy

CEDAR GROVE, NJ – Saturday night was bustling at the Macedonian church in Cedar Grove with more than 35 chili cook-off teams, three celebrity chefs, 1,000 guests and several VIPs who came out to support cancer survivor Bill “No Fear” Fearon. 

The Cedar Grove Fire Department sponsored the chili cooking competition along with New York’s 95.5 WPLJ radio host and Master of Ceremonies Todd Pettengill.

Amanda Freitag, chef/owner of the Empire Diner in Manhattan as well as a judge on Food Network’s popular show "Chopped," headlined the distinguished panel of judges along with Bravo’s Top Chef alum Chef Ariane Duarte and Food Network’s Cutthroat Kitchen winner Chef Francesco Palmieri.  Also judging the competition was Anne Marie Leamy and Race Taylor, both from WPLJ, former NFL punter Steve Weatherford and Superintendent of Cedar Grove Schools Michael Fetherman. 

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The community came together to show their gratitude and support for NJ State Trooper and Cedar Grove resident Bill Fearon, who in May of this year was diagnosed with Glioblastoma (GBM).  GBM is a form of cancer that affects the left and right halves of the brain that control reading, thinking, speech, muscle movement and emotions. 

Coming home one day after work, Janice Fearon, Bill’s wife, noticed he was “slurring his words, I thought he might be having a stroke.”  Janice, having been a nurse for over 22 years, knew something wasn’t right and immediately took his blood pressure, then contacted a hospital’s emergency room for further diagnosis.  Doctors at Hackensack Medical Center don’t know what caused the tumor.  Though they removed the tumor, Fearon is under a doctor’s supervision and will continue to undergo treatment for the next two to three years. 

“Everyday I put my feet on the ground and I look forward to winning,” Bill Fearon said about living with cancer.  “This is the mindset that I have, it’s about living without fear.”

After graduating from the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, he was invited to join the FBI but turned it down to join the NJ police academy.  “All I ever wanted to be was a police officer,” said Fearon.  He has served the NJ State Police for 21 years, was a first responder after the attacks on 9/11 and committed to his beloved town of Cedar Grove.  He and his wife Janice have three children; Ryan, Elyse and Jessie.

Among the guests was U.S. Congressman Rodney Frelinghuysen, representing New Jersey’s 11th Congressional District, as well as the entire Cedar Grove Town Council including Mayor Joe Chiusolo, who was also a competitor.

“If it weren’t for the hard work of the fire department, none of us would be here.” Said Mayor Chiusolo.  “They stepped up and made it happen.”  Unfortunately, the Mayor’s chili didn’t win.

It was evidently clear that the Cedar Grove community loves and respects Fearon.  Competitors and guests alike had only the highest level of respect and compliments about this public servant.  “Bill is very well known in this town.  Those that don’t know him, know of him,” said Joe Cirasa, who was the lead in organizing the event and is also an officer in the fire department.  “Everybody loves him.  When we heard about his cancer, we had to do something for him, it’s just what we do.”

After hours of competition, Jim Marshall of Montville was crowned the winner of the chili competition.  His winning chili recipe included using Kettle One vodka, short ribs and fresh chili peppers.

For additional photos and story about this event, please visit the food column In Search of Flavor, and TAPintoFood on Facebook.

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