Many years ago, I convinced three friends (Pete, Julie and Meg) to enter a chili competition with me.  There was a minor problem: none of us had ever made chili before.  Nor did we have a recipe.

So, we collected about 15 different chili recipes and created our own.  The results? We won the Tiburon Chili Festival! There were over 200 entrants!  People were lining up for our “Chili Vanilli”.

Here is the famous recipe.  The portions yield about 8 gallons, so make sure you either get a huge pot or scale it down to something sizable.  Please let me know how much you enjoy it!


Dave’s Chili Vanilli

To win a chili competition, simply create the following:


  • 36 tablespoons olive oil
  • 12 large onions, minced
  • 24 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 10 pounds of ground beef
  • 12 strips of bacon, chopped
  • 14 Italian sausages, boiled and chopped
  • 30 cups of water
  • 16 cups canned tomatoes
  • 10 green peppers, minced
  • ¼ cup lemon juice
  • 2 cups burgundy
  • 6 teaspoons celery seed
  • 4 teaspoons cayenne pepper
  • 12 teaspoons cumin seed, crushed
  • 12 bay leaves
  • 24 tablespoons chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons basil
  • 15 teaspoons salt
  • 4 teaspoons oregano
  • 6 teaspoons brown sugar
  • 6 teaspoons black pepper

Add to taste:

  • Bourbon
  • Guiness Stout
  • Unsweetened chocolate

Add to thicken:

  • White cornmeal


The Process:


  • Peel and mince onions and garlic.
  • De-seed and chop green peppers
  • Boil and chop Italian sausages
  • Crush cumin seed
  • Chop bacon strips.



  • Heat olive oil in giant skillet
  • Add onions and garlic and saute until golden brown.
  • Add green pepper.
  • Add beef, bacon and sausage. Brown.



  • Transfer meat mixture to huge cauldron (8-10 gallon capacity)
  • Add the remaining ingredients while stirring
  • Bring to a boil
  • Reduce heat to simmer
  • Simmer uncovered until ready to serve.
  • Add cornmeal to thicken if desired.