A hearty bowl of chili can warm the body — and soul

Elizabeth Cardiel of Paso Robles prefers a cast iron kettle to prepare her chili. She participated in the festivities at Templeton Founder’s Day on Saturday, Oct. 24, 2015.
Elizabeth Cardiel of Paso Robles prefers a cast iron kettle to prepare her chili. She participated in the festivities at Templeton Founder’s Day on Saturday, Oct. 24, 2015.

What’s a perfect bowl of chili?

Ask 10 different people and you could easily get 20 different answers. Usually the points of contention are beans or no beans, tomatoes or no tomatoes, what kind of meat or no meat at all.

In Texas, where it’s the official state dish, the standard is usually chili con carne (with meat) and no beans or tomatoes … though sometimes beans are added. In New Mexico, it’s either red or green, usually made with pork and spelled “chile.” In the Midwest, chili is served over spaghetti, and fast food spots throughout the United States ladle it atop hot dogs and fries. There’s also an aptly named white chili made with white beans and meat such as turkey or chicken.

Reportedly inspired by the Pillsbury Co.’s National Bakeoffs in the 1950s, chili cookoffs took off in the 1960s. Today, they’re a popular form of competition, whether as large-scale events drawing hundreds of contestants and attendees or as low-key community gatherings such as the recent Rotary Club of Templeton’s second annual Templeton Chili Cookoff.

Held on Oct. 24 as part of the Templeton Chamber of Commerce’s Founder’s Day Street Fair, the event drew almost a dozen competitors who served samples of their homemade chili.

Templeton resident Hoyt Law took home the top prize of $500. It was his second time winning a chili cookoff, but not with this particular recipe. For the Templeton cookoff, he used both beef and pork, and added beans to help him get up to the three gallons needed for the competition.

“Some people don’t like beans so I don’t always put them in,” said Law. “My ‘recipe’ is more of a guideline. I never really know what is going to go into the pot — it’s more about tasting and adjusting.” However, he noted that it’s now officially a “family recipe” since he and his wife Lisa welcomed their newborn son to the world just days before the cookoff!

At local San Luis Obispo County restaurants, several chefs serve chili on their menus, and all styles are represented.

Consider these different versions from The Ribline and Breaking Bread Bakery.

Brian Appiano, owner of The Ribline restaurants in San Luis Obispo and Grover Beach, was new to the chili game when he signed up to compete in a local cook off, so he hit the books. After quite a bit of research, he concluded he would go with the traditional Texas no-bean style.

“It seemed as if the beans served as more of a filler and I wanted a really luxurious chili,” he said. Armed with the recipe he concocted, Appiano not only won that original local competition in 2010, but several since then, including 1st Place for People’s Choice at the 2013 World Food Championships in Las Vegas, NV. (At press time, he was competing again with the chili at the 2015 event in Florida.)

Appiano’s “World Famous, Award-Winning Triple Threat Tri-Tip Chili” is on the menu at all three Ribline locations. He couldn’t be talked into giving up the recipe, but did offer a few clues as to how he creates his flavors.

“I use three different types of peppers: jalapeño, California and chipotle,” he explained, “and the Angus tri-tip is cooked two ways. Some is oak-roasted and cubed, some is braised for about five hours until it’s falling apart.”

At the other end of the chili spectrum is the popular White Bean Turkey Chili from Breaking Bread Bakery in San Luis Obispo. Located in the downtown Government Center, the bakery is known not only for its fresh artisan breads, but also for its daily breakfast and lunch specials.

“This chili is frequently one of our lunch specials, and also often requested for catered lunches at meetings and training classes,” said Glenna Evans, who co-owns the bakery with her husband, Mark Evans.

“We picked this chili for several reasons,” said Glenna Evans. “We like to start with foods that are our personal favorites, but also ones that aren’t found at other local establishments. Also, many of our regular clients prefer foods that are rich in protein.”

Of course, Evans added, “everyone knows that chili goes well with good bread!”

Katy Budge is a freelance writer from Atascadero. Contact her at

Law family chili recipe

Hoyt Law, winner of the Rotary Club of Templeton’s second annual Templeton Chili Cookoff, uses this recipe as a guideline when making his chili. Adjust it as necessary based on your own tastes, just as he does.

“Use whatever meat you want to,” Law said. “Also, be careful with the jalapeño and serrano peppers — they are hot. For milder chili, omit the serranos altogether and use less jalapeños.”

Makes: 10-12 servings

3 pounds pork, diced (shoulder)

3 pounds beef, grilled and diced (tri-tip, chuck steak, sirloin)

2 large onions, peeled and diced

6 cups diced fire-roasted peppers, peeled and seeded (poblano, Anaheim, jalapeño, serrano)

3 cups pureed tomatoes

4 tablespoons ground cumin

4 tablespoons chili powder

3 tablespoons paprika

1 tablespoon ground black pepper

1 tablespoon oregano

2 tablespoons salt

5 cloves garlic, minced

1/4 cup masa flour

4 cups of beans (kidney or your favorite), cooked and drained

Combine all ingredients except the masa flour and beans. Cook slowly for at least 12 hours; do not allow to boil.

Add enough water to the masa flour to form a loose paste (about 1/2 cup of water). Add masa mixture and beans to the chili. Cook at least an additional 1/2 hour. Adjust spices to taste.

Glenna’s white bean turkey chili from Breaking Bread Bakery

This is a popular lunch special at the downtown San Luis Obispo bakery — and an often requested dish for catered meetings and lunches. Here, Glenna Evans uses ground turkey, but she noted this is also a great dish for using up leftover holiday turkey.

Makes: 8-10 servings

1 tablespoons olive oil

3 cups yellow onion, diced

5 cloves minced garlic

1 tablespoon chili powder

1 tablespoon cumin

1 tablespoon leaf oregano (dried)

2 teaspoons red pepper flakes

3 pounds ground turkey

4 16-ounce cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed

4-5 cups chicken stock

1/2 cup heavy cream

1 1/2-2 teaspoons salt

1 tablespoon lime juice

Place large heavy-bottomed soup pot over medium heat. When hot, add oil.

Add onions and garlic. Cook until lightly golden, about 5-7 minutes.

Add chili powder, cumin, oregano and red pepper flakes. Cook for 2 minutes.

Add the turkey and cook, breaking it up with the back of a wooden spoon, until white, about 4-5 minutes.

Add beans, broth and cream. Cook 5 minutes.

Lower heat to low and cook until chili comes together, about 20 minutes. Add salt and lime juice.

Serve with freshly baked bread.