After taking a year off, the HGI chili cook-off was back in full swing this year! Our last competition was in 2012, when Fire Protection Consultant, Kevin Johnson, took the trophy. This year, Kevin had to contend with three other entries – two of which were vegetarian versions of the good old American dish.

The chili cook-off is such a great event for our office. It’s always a lot of fun and it’s an easy way to build morale, enhance communication, and foster a positive atmosphere for our team. So, who was the winner of the 2014 Harrington Group Chili Cook-Off this year? That honor went to Fire Protection Consultant, Rob McFeaters, with his spicy smoked brisket chili.

Rob agreed to share his recipe with all of us, which was based on a recipe he found on the Allrecipes website. If you need something to warm you up on these cold fall and winter nights, give this recipe a try!


¼ lb. bacon

2 lbs. smoked brisket (or substitute with any meat)

1 yellow bell pepper

1 large yellow onion

8 jalapenos

6 habanero peppers

3 cloves garlic

1.5 T cumin

1 T crushed red pepper flakes

3 T chili powder

2 T “Better than Bouillon” chicken base

2 cans whole peeled tomatoes (with juice)

1 can crushed tomatoes (with juice)

2 cans chili beans (Rob used pinto beans)

1 Yuengling 12 oz. beer (any beer will do, but light ‘beers’ will not add much taste)

3 oz. tomato paste

3 tbs. chili sauce

2 cups water


1)     Dice onion, bell pepper, and garlic and set aside. Dice and remove the seeds from the jalapeno and habanero peppers and set aside with the other vegetables.

2)     In a large stock pot (>=5 qt. capacity for this recipe), brown the bacon over medium-high heat; remove the browned bacon and set it aside on a plate lined with paper towels. Remove the excess grease from the pot.

3)     Add vegetables to the pot and cook slightly (~ 3 minutes); then add all other ingredients except the bacon to the pot. Reduce heat to low and simmer uncovered for 60 minutes.

4)     Add bacon and simmer uncovered for an additional 45 minutes.

Rob warns – do not touch your eyes after handling and cutting the peppers – and be sure to wash your hands thoroughly! To make a vegetarian version of this chili, you could omit the bacon and replace the chicken bouillon base with vegetable stock. Also, in place of the brisket, try substituting grilled portabellas doused with some liquid smoke, and/or a pound of diced eggplant pieces previously baked in the oven on 350° F for 30 minutes, brushed with olive oil and turned once.

While this chili tastes great right away, it tastes even better reheated after sitting in the fridge overnight. Enjoy!

Chili Cook Off Winner 2014