We the people… love chili!

By Emily Ryan, Digital First Media Planning a July Fourth party? It doesn’t have to be chilly to enjoy chili.

“It’s just all-American. Everybody likes chili,” said executive chef Fred Duerr, who hosts an annual Independence Day chili cook-off at Rising Sun Inn in Franconia.


“I usually make a big pot of bison chili,” he continued. “It’s just kind of simple. That’s what makes it good – not overcomplicated.”


For an equally easy beef and bean recipe, try the house chili, aka “beans n’ jeans,” from John Serock Catering in West Chester, which placed second in the restaurant division at last year’s West Chester Chili Cook-off.


“We actually use two kinds of beef. We use ground beef and chopped steak,” Serock explained. “The secret ingredient is a pretty strong IPA beer. We usually lean toward Victory.”

He also shared a tip that another chef once taught him.

“The key to a good chili is – there should be three beans on every spoonful,” Serock said.

Prefer turkey chili? Jeff Porter of Chile Spot in Downingtown serves a spicy version with “a variety of different chiles in it.”

“I do like things probably spicier than most people,” admitted the company president and self-described “chief chile officer.”

Porter sells artisanal pepper products and fresh peppers at the West Chester Growers Market and Phoenixville Farmers’ Market.

As for chili, “I think it’s kind of the ultimate comfort food. A nice bowl of hearty chili and a cold beverage – you can’t help but be very happy about that,” he described. “Now I want some!”

For another twist on tradition, whip up a batch of vegan chili. Jackie Borelli of Just Jackie’s Food Truck wows veggie and meat lovers alike with her adaptation featuring zucchini, red peppers, mushrooms, corn and black beans.

“What makes vegan chili special? It has such a meaty taste without having any meat in it,” she said. “It’s really unique, sweet and spicy. It has a lot of bold flavors that people enjoy.”

“People are always surprised,” Borelli added, “and it’s a pleasant surprise.”

However, it’s no surprise that with the Fourth fast approaching, Duerr knows exactly what he’s looking for in a champion chili.

“Flavor,” he stressed. “Not too spicy, but spicy enough. The texture. The color. Their meat-to-bean ratio. I like a lot of beans, but not too many.”

“It’s just a fun day.”

House Chili

Yields approximately 1 large Crock-Pot


** Must be made the day before**



3 pounds ground beef (you can use ground turkey)

1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes

1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes

2 large onions, diced

2 green peppers, diced

2 red peppers, diced

1 bottle strong IPA (I prefer Victory HopDevil) **very important

3 tablespoons salt (more to taste if necessary)

2 tablespoons black pepper

3 tablespoons ground cumin **very important

3 tablespoons chili powder

2 tablespoons ground cayenne pepper

3 tablespoons smoked paprika (regular paprika is OK, but smoked is much better)

3 tablespoons granulated garlic



Throw everything in a Crock-Pot and set for high for 4 to 6 hours. Refrigerate overnight; there should be a film of fat on top of the chili the next day when you take it out of the fridge. Remove half the fat. (It will melt back in and give a ton of flavor if you leave some.) We usually simmer an additional hour before serving and adjust seasoning if necessary. It’s better to add additional salt the second day after everything sets up.

Recipe courtesy of John Serock Catering