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Chili secrets from cook-off champion

Brett Saxslices up tomatoes for pot his prize winning chili while displaying his ceramic trophy for winning last year's People's

Brett Saxon slices up tomatoes for a pot of his prize winning chili while displaying his ceramic trophy for winning last year's People's Choice Award at the Yorkville Chili for Charity Event. | Judy Buchenot~For Sun-Times Media

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Berghorst-Saxon Family Chili Recipe

2 1/2 pounds ground beef

1 green pepper, chopped

3 tablespoons chili powder

1 teaspoon dried basil

1 to 2 teaspoons ground cumin

2 teaspoons salt

2 8-ounce cans tomato sauce

15-ounce can kidney beans, drained

2 cups onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano

1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1 tablespoon sugar

2 28-ounce cans whole tomatoes

6-ounce can tomato paste

Sautee beef and drain fat. Add onion, green pepper, garlic, chili powder, oregano, basil, red pepper and cumin. Cook 5 minutes. Stir in sugar, salt, tomatoes, tomato sauce and tomato paste. Bring to a boil. Then simmer until thickened, about 40 minutes. Add beans. Bring back to a simmer and simmer 10 minutes.

If you go

What: Second Chili for Charity Chili Cook Off with live music, entertainment, food, beverages and chili tasting

When: Noon until 10 p.m. Sept. 21, with a music festival from 5 until 10 p.m. Sept. 20

Where: Yorkville Riverfront Park, 301 E. Hydraulic St.. Follow signs to avoid construction closures.

Who: The Knights of Columbus will host the event with proceeds going to charity efforts of the organization and St. Vincent de Paul.

Tickets: Admission is free.

For more information: Visit

Updated: September 17, 2013 4:45PM

Brett Saxon and Jeff Ward have a great friendship, so when Ward needed entries for a fundraising chili cook-off, he knew he could count on Saxon.

“Jeff is very active with the Knights of Columbus,” Saxon says. “They raise funds for the St. Vincent de Paul charities, which helped more than 300 families in Kendall County last year. So when I found out this contest was to raise funds for St. Vincent de Paul, I was ready to make some chili.”

Saxon, 43, of Yorkville, serves as the assistant administrator at the Tiller Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Oswego. The center was founded by his grandfather Dr. Michael Saxon, and his father, Robert Saxon, has served as the administrator since it opened. Other family members are involved in leadership roles also.

“Tillers is one of the event sponsors, and we are happy to be able to give back to the community,” Saxon says.

Last year was the first year for the Chili for Charity event, and Saxon took home the People’s Choice Award for his Wilbur’s Raging Bull Chili. There were 22 pots of chili make by 17 cooks entered last year. Saxon will be entering again this year.

As a veteran chili chef, Saxon has a few suggestions. “Go easy on the beans,” he begins. “Beans are cheap and filling, but they can be overpowering in the chili.”

As a personal preference, he notes, “Don’t incorporate corn into the chili. Corn has no place in chili in my opinion.”

One addition that he says can be successful is noodles “for an interesting texture.”

Saxon notes that chili does not have to be tomato-rich red.

“I have had some very good white-and-black chili,” he says.

The types of meat used also can be varied and may even be left out for a vegetarian option, but Saxon says he likes a lot of meat in his chili. He won’t divulge his meat choices for his prize-winning chili, but there are hints in the chili’s name of “Wilbur’s Raging Bull.” Wilbur refers to the popular pig name from “Charlotte’s Web,” so there is some pork, and Raging Bull hints at an addition of beef.

Saxon says peppers are a great way to add heat to chili. Using different varieties often gives recipes their signature flavor.

Saxon is not willing to share his winning recipe, for good reason. But he does say his starts with his mother, Joyce Saxon’s family recipe, which has been handed down for three generations. He will share that one.

“I adapted her recipe to my own personal taste and added a secret ingredient,” he says.

He challenges everyone to come taste his chili to see if they can guess what he adds to it to give it the winning flavor.

“Come early, come hungry and bring a few antacids if you plan to taste all 20-plus chili entries,” Saxon says.

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