Chef Breandan Duff shares his winning chili recipe


Chef Breandan Duff’s chili features several different types of peppers and two types of beef. (Photo by Caroline Burns ’22)

By Madeline Marriott, Assistant Arts and Culture Editor

Earlier this month, four pots of chili lined the wall of Marquis Hall for the 2021 installment of Lafayette’s annual chili contest.

The contest featured a dish from a chef at each of the four dining halls on campus. This year’s winner was Breandan Duff, executive chef of Upper Farinon Dining Hall.

Although the recipe contains many of the usual chili ingredients, it does have one unusual omission: beans.

“I went to Emerson College a few years back, and one of the head chefs up there is from Texas,” Duff explained. “He said that if you put beans in a chili in a Texas cookoff, you’ll get disqualified.” 

So instead of beans, Duff focused on finding quality local ingredients to take his recipe to the next level. He used a trio of peppers from Twin Maple Farms to enhance the flavor and both eye round and ground beef from Happy Valley Beef to vary the texture of the chili.

Duff has one major tip for those venturing into the world of chili-making: take your time. 

“The number-one rule of making chili for me and most others is don’t burn it,” Duff said. “You have to invest time into it…you have to baby it a little bit and make sure it’s in the right spot.”

Duff has been a part of the Bon Appetit dining staff for over seven years and has worked all across campus, with stints at Marquis and Upper. He has also assisted in the other halls.

The editorial board of The Lafayette tried out the recipe. What the recipe lacked in beans, it made up for in vibrant flavor. Although the college student version of the chili was certainly not made as expertly as Duff’s, the board highly recommends trying out this recipe.

Here is the recipe for his contest-winning chili.



Chili paste:

Puree the following to a heavy paste:

  • Salt
  • Coarse black pepper
  • Dash of ground white pepper
  • Chili powder
  • Smoked paprika
  • Dash of cayenne powder
  • Cumin powder
  • Coriander powder
  • Lime juice
  • A few deseeded jalapeños
  • Dash of oil
  • Dash of cinnamon
  • Tiny dash of nutmeg
  • Small can of chipotle peppers in adobo juice
  • Granulated garlic
  • A couple small shallots
  • Onion powder

Main ingredients:

Note: This recipe can also be done with tempeh or seitan instead of beef eye round and tofu instead of ground beef to make it vegetarian.

  • Beef eye round
  • Ground beef 80/20
  • 1-2 cups of dry red wine
  • Large can of diced tomatoes
  • Large can of crushed tomatoes
  • Cubanelle peppers
  • Hungarian wax peppers
  • Green and red bell peppers
  • White and red onions
  • Molasses
  • White or brown sugar
  • Orange blossom honey; clover honey is okay, just add a splash of orange juice when deglazing the pan with the tomatoes



  1. Salt and pepper the eye round. Let blood drain from it for two or more days (less is okay).
  2. Trim fat cap off the top of the eye round. Fine julienne or mince. Set them aside for sautéing the peppers.
  3. Slice eye round into steaks. Rub the steaks with some of the chili paste but not all of it. Mark the steaks on the grill, but keep them raw. Dice the steaks.
  4. Toss and coat the diced meat with orange blossom honey and sugar.
  5. Brown off and render the ground beef to 90% fully cooked. Drain and set aside the fat to sauté the peppers.
  6. Deseed and half-inch dice the Cubanelle, Hungarian wax, green bell and red bell peppers.
  7. Sauté the diced peppers and the fat cap from the minced beef in a small amount of the ground beef fat until translucent.
  8. Dice the onions. Add the diced onions to the peppers along with the paste. Stir and coat them.
  9. Add the diced beef and ground beef. Stir and coat.
  10. Add a palmful of sugar. Stir and coat until potentially smooth consistency starts.
  11. Add a little more than half a cup of molasses.
  12. Add one cup of dry red wine to deglaze the bottom of the pot.
  13. Stir all until well blended. Add diced tomatoes and juice from the tomatoes. Fill the empty can with water and add it to the pot of chili.
  14. Add crushed tomatoes. Fill can with water and add it to the pot of chili.
  15. Stir until well-blended, making sure to get all the good stuff at the bottom and around the edges as well.
  16. Turn heat to medium-low and stir occasionally.