Hormel’s Firehouse Chili Contest, combining delicious recipes and touching stories


Have you ever noticed that chili is an iconic firefighter food? As the finalists prepare for this year’s Hormel’s Firehouse Chili Contest, these inspiring recipes have heart.

The annual Hormel’s Firehouse Chili Contest is back with several amazing chili recipes that will impress chili fans. While each recipe is extremely impressive, the men behind these recipes explain why chili is an iconic firefighter food. Although the flavors and styles might vary, the common bond between firehouses and chili is clear.

Recently, I had the opportunity to chat with a few of Hormel’s Firehouse Chili Contest finalists. This impressive group of firefighters weighed in on the iconic pairing of firehouses and chili. While some of the stories share a common bond, another commonality emerged, the family connection.

Chili seems to be a recipe that is often handed down through families (or firehouses). Whether it was grandma’s recipe or your dad’s secret blend of spices, that dish and its recipe are more than just a combination of ingredients. It holds a sense of comfort, even a favorite food memory.

Hormel’s Firehouse Chili Contest, photo provided by Hormel

According to Alex Callegari, one of the finalists from Miami, he said “A good chili may bring back a favorite dish that grandma used to make, or tantalize an individual’s palate with the local ingredients and level of heat used. There is something just comforting about any good chili that anyone can just relate to, no matter where you are from. It always makes you feel like home.”

That statement really rings true. Even though chili is a bowl of food, it tells a story. The combination of ingredients, how it is served and the occasion come together to be fills not just the stomach but also the soul. It brings a sense of comfort.

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Another Hormel Firehouse Chili Contestant, Milton Williams of Dallas, Texas said, “Chili is generally considered as peasant food. Peasants’ families were widely known to commune at meal time. I think that tradition falls in line with history when it comes to certain foods. Families use meal time to connect with each other. Same is to be said about firehouses. As a crew we generally sit down together and eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Chili is a staple meal with a long history in all firehouses. We talk about the day’s activities, tell stories, laugh and joke with each other. It’s our 2nd home.”

In today’s constantly busy world, the table can be one of the few spots where people still sit and communicate with each other. If a bowl of chili can get people off their phones and interacting with each other, that food memory/connection becomes more real.

Also, looking at chili itself, the recipes can be adapted to make each bowl more individualized. Contestant, Garrett Doucette of Upsala, Minnesota believes that chili is love by firehouses because it “can be customized to meet the difference taste of the different people that are eating.” For example, chili toppings can transform the same chili into a multitude of different flavors and experiences.

Hormel’s Firehouse Chili Contest, photo provided by Hormel

Lastly, have you ever noticed that chili tastes as good (or sometimes better) the next day? As contestant Dan Rinaldi of Providence, Rhode Island said chili is “something that heats very well so if you have a fire late-night and are hungry when you get back it’s great reheated.” The layers of flavor continue to develop over time. Again, it that bowl of comfort when you need it.

These firefighters are competing in the Hormel’s Firehouse Chili Contest. The chili who earns the title of America’s Best Firehouse Chili Recipe will receive $10,000 for his firehouse. In conjunction with this contest, Hormel will be donating $20,000 to National Fallen Firefighters Foundation.

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Do you have a chili story? Does your recipe connect you to family, friends or maybe a firehouse? Best of luck to Homel’s Firehouse Chili Contest finalists and thank you to all the first responders who keep us safe.