Submitted by Al Leonard
I always felt more comfortable on a collapsing roof than I did in a firehouse kitchen. I was a Truckman with a “big coat and little hat”, and was much more confident with a chain saw than a spatula.

Since I retired, I have been asked for this recipe. It’s easy to remember because it’s the only recipe I ever knew. The chili was known by many unprintable names until Firefighter John Guiral, Station 2’s most humble and demure member, invented the name of “Ten Can Chili”. Bob Territo from Truck 2 later claimed this recipe as his own, and renamed it “Shorty’s Original Chili”.

Woody Paynter from Truck 2, and Lloyd Goldberg from Engine 5 made the best meatloaves I ever tasted. Brian Brady from Engine 41 made great “Chicken Fried Steak”, and Dominic Bordashar from Truck 17 made the best “Scalloped Potatos”. My chili belonged with the less famous recipes that I remember as “Chicken in the Red Sea”, “Polynesian Pineapple with Chicken Bits”, “Chicken Valdeez with pine-nut Pasta”, “Trailside Tofu Stew”, and my all-time favorite, “Construction-Grade Red Snapper”.

I was always hammered by the off-going shift at our morning coffee. They told me to never cook this recipe again as they described in detail their previous night of “events” in the dormitory. I was just grateful that I wouldn’t have to cook for another month.

I am proud to have served 11,808 days as a professional firefighter, and I am honored to have spent that time with so many fine people. It was “9 banquets a month”, and 32 1/2 years of laughter.

Good Luck and Best Wishes.



1 whole celery, cleaned and chopped into medium pieces.
2 large red bell peppers (or equivalent), chopped into medium sized pieces.
2 large yellow onions (or equivalent), chopped medium-fine.
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped fine.
1/4 - 1/2 small habanero pepper, seeded and chopped fine (Be careful-Hot).
4 - 5 cloves of garlic, chopped fine.
4 - 5 mushrooms, thinly sliced (optional).
2 pounds of 20% fat hamburger, browned and drained.
1 large can (29 oz) of tomato sauce.
4 large cans of kidney beans (27 oz each), drained and washed.
1 large can of “Redi-Cut” tomatoes (28 oz), added 30 minutes before serving.
1 cup of water.


“Grandma’s Zesty Chili Powder”, 3 tbls to start.
Less than one-eighth tsp. of fennel seeds.
1/2 tsp. of salt.
1/2 tsp. of ground black pepper.
1 tsp. of cumin powder.
2 bay leaves and pinch or more of Italian seasoning (optional).


Use a 10-quart or larger stainless steel or cast iron pot. Don’t use a dented firehouse aluminum pot unless you enjoy eating aluminum oxide.

Put tomato sauce in first, and then add beans, vegetables, browned meat, and spices. Add 1 cup of water at the beginning of cooking. Simmer at medium heat (not boiling) for about 2- 3 hours, and stir frequently. About 30 minutes before serving add “Redi-Cut” tomatoes, and adjust the original spices to your taste. The chili is done when the celery pieces are tender. Serve with French bread & butter, and sprinkle Parmesan cheese on top of the chili if desired.

This recipe makes about 2 gallons of chili, which is sufficient for a double firehouse or for Chris Diaz on a Monday morning. Cut the recipe in half when appropriate.


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