Heat Wave 

It's getting warmer, but chili's on the way.

After looking over the lengthy lineup of judges for next week's Chili Cook-Off, it's hard to believe there's anyone left in town to do the actual cooking. But personal chef Brian Doyle (World's Fare Culinary Services) promises that he and his buds have rounded up nearly 30 cooks -- including pros like Michael Clotworthy (Flying Fig) and Mike Tomaselli (Vue) -- to ladle up the hot stuff on Wednesday, April 5, in the Tasting Room at Great Lakes Brewing Company (2701 Carroll Avenue, 216-771-4404).

The event grew out of a casual conversation on a local online food forum, says Doyle, the father of a nine-year-old son with autism. "Someone wanted to do a chili cook-off, and I jumped in and suggested we make it a fund-raiser." As a result, all proceeds will benefit the Autism Society of Greater Cleveland.

Fifteen bucks gets you in the door, where you can chow down on chili and sample a variety of side dishes and desserts. (You're on your own for the beers, but at least they'll be easy to come by.)

The nine-judge panel includes everyone from chef Paul Minnillo (Baricelli Inn) to author Michael Ruhlman (The Soul of a Chef) and former TV and radio personality Robin Swoboda; yours truly will be there too, sucking down bowls o' red with the rest of the panel, from 6 to 9 p.m.

Square deal . . . Twinsburg's Serio's on the Square closed on March 11 after a 12-year run. "I love what I do, but I love my family more," says chef-owner Rick Serio. "And let's face it: There is no balance in this industry." Gift certificates will be honored at Serio's next-door store, Serio's Too (2728 East Aurora Road), for the next few weeks. Then the building, which has been sold, will be demolished and the land redeveloped. Serio plans to continue his catering ops (330-425-3339) from a new location.

Burned out . . . Look for Michael Longo's Firefly Seafood & Steak to be closed at least until June. The upscale Bainbridge bistro was heavily damaged in a March 6 fire that wiped out the kitchen and caused heavy damage to the dining room.

Longo's longtime chef, Jacob Westervelt (now at nearby Cowboy Food and Drink), was first on the scene. "It was pretty terrible," he says. "I started here six months after the restaurant opened [in 1994]; it was my home." -- Cicora


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