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ICS 2003

Bronco Bob's Chili

Robert Wetzel

2003 37th Annual

 World's Championship

For thirty years, wilderness guide, Bob Wetzel of Manhattan, Montana, has led hunters, fishermen and horseback riders through the wilds of Montana, Wyoming and Yellowstone Park. This October, he blazed a trail straight to the pinnacle of success in the world of competition chili. Wetzel won the traditional red chili category with his Brono Bob’s chili taking home a check for $25,000 along with the coveted bronze chili pot and bragging rights for the entire year.

Getting caught up in the fervor of chili cookoff competition isn’t all that easy in Montana, since the state has no cookoff of its own at this time. Wetzel first entered a competition 6 years ago at the urging of his wife, Darol. A longtime competition cook, she had recently added ICS events to her regular competition rounds, including The Pillsbury Bake Off and the National Beef Cook-Off. Darol advised her husband that as long as he was going to come along to the International Chili Society competitions, he might as well cook his own pot. Bob’s wife supplied him with his spices and a few tips on his recipe, and turned him loose. Ever since, the Wetzels have been among the most determined of chili cooks—driving a minimum of 6 hours to put their chili up against those of cooks in Wyoming, North Dakota, South Dakota, Idaho, Utah and Canada. Their efforts have paid off—between the two of them, they have won state championships in seven states and in Canada, qualifying repeatedly for the World’s Championship Chili Cookoff in both traditional red chili and chili verde. Bob Wetzel’s recipe follows the trend of last year’s winning dish in its addition of pork sausage to the traditional cubed beef. “The sausage adds a distinctive, rich flavor,” says Wetzel. His second “secret” ingredient, now revealed because every ICS champ must fork over his or her winning recipe, is lime juice. Wetzel believes the splash of citrus during the last phase of cooking his chili counters the slight bitter tinge that sometimes comes from spice powders. According to Wetzel, his chili rates an 8 on a scale of 1 to 10 for spiciness, though he often makes it a little hotter at home


1 cup onion, chopped
1 canned green Hatch chile, chopped
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1/2 cup El Pato tomato sauce
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 can chicken broth
8 tablespoons California chili powder*, divided
2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 teaspoons Accent, divided
1 teaspoon Tabasco sauce

2 1/2 pounds Tri Tip beef, cubed
4 ounces pork sausage

2 tablespoons New Mexico chili powder*
3 tablespoons of cumin, cumin

1 tablespoon hot New Mexico chili powder*
2 teaspoons of lime juice

*Winner Bob Wetzel orders his spices from Sespe Creek Chili Potters, run by former ICS champion Jim Beaty. Spices from Penderys, Gebhardt, or your favorite manufacturer can be substituted. Bob also adds 1/2 of a boneless pork chop to the chili pot while simmering and removes its 30 minutes before it's finished.


1. In chili pot, combine onion, green chili, garlic, tomato sauce, tomato paste, chicken broth, 6 tablespoons California chili powder, salt, 1 teaspoon Accent, and Tabasco sauce. Bring to a simmer. Cook 1 hour.

2. Brown beef and sausage and set aside.

3. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of California chili powder to the chili pot.

4. Add the beef and sausage. Simmer for 30 minutes, adding more chicken broth as needed.

5. Add the New Mexico chili powder and 2 tablespoons cumin to the chili pot and simmer another 45 minutes.

6. Add the remaining Accent, cumin, hot chili powder and lime juice to chili pot. Cook for 30 minutes, adding chicken broth as needed. Salt to taste.

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