Chili has always been a mainstay for the 12-unit Braintree, Massachusetts-based Joe’s American Bar & Grill, but it didn’t bowl over Steve Byrne, VP of culinary operations. So last February, he took it off the menu. “That was the biggest mistake I’ve made in my career,” he claims.
To develop a “new and improved” chili, Byrne invited Joe’s 12 chefs—one from each location—into a cooking competition. “We held two chili cook-offs and narrowed down the choices to five finalists,” says Byrne. Everything at Joe’s is made on site, from scratch, so these recipes had to conform to that mission.
The winner turned out to be Victor Sincuir, Joe’s chef at a Connecticut location. The recipe includes elements passed down from his mother and incorporates two types of beans—black beans and chili or pinto beans—as well as tomatoes, cumin and a touch of heat. “It’s very flavorful and it enables our servers to tell a story about the dish. We like to tell stories about our food,” Byrne explains.
Changing it up
The chili that was axed from the menu didn’t contain beans; this version starts with dried beans that are cooked on-premise. In addition, chef Sincuir roasted the cumin to intensity its flavor and upped the amount he used.
The meat of the matter
The beef in the chili tells a story of its own. It’s sourced locally from a Boston supplier, who grinds a special blend of 90 percent chuck and 10 percent shin meat. “The shin meat gives the beef a little more bite so it’s not mushy,” says Byrne.
Joe’s guests were happy to have their chili back. “We started by offering it as a special, but now it’s on the appetizer menu and will stay there until the spring,” Byrne reports. It’s priced at $3.95 for a cup and $5.50 for a bowl. “It’s more expensive to make than the original, but we’re not charging more. Getting it back was more important than the cost.” Plus, the recipe has ”legs”—it can easily be cross-utilized in other applications, such as nachos.