February 9, 2024

East vs West: Venvi Senior Living Celebrates National Chili Day

Two different styles of chili from Venvi's chefs

Ah, February. Except for those rare, beautiful sunny winter days, it’s the month of making the most out of staying indoors. No wonder that it’s in this month we celebrate National Chili Day. Is there any better comfort food than chili in February? Plus, it’s also a fan favourite during the biggest football game of the year, and a favourite of our senior residents across the country as we celebrate National Chili Day on February 22.

Origins of Chili

Chili has become the stuff of legend. Top recipes can earn awards at chili festivals and cookoffs all over the world. Though the exact origin of chili has been a subject of debate, the dish was popularized in Texas in the 1860s by the ‘Chili Queens of San Antonio’ who sold the dish to soldiers, travelers, and cattlemen.

Of course, it wouldn’t be National Chili Day without a little friendly chili cookoff of our own. It’s a battle of east vs west, as Chef Bradley Taylor, from Venvi King Gardens in Ontario, puts his southern spin on chili to the test against Chef Alana Bilmes from Venvi The Bentley Yorkton in Saskatchewan. Here are their stories and special recipes. Try them both and you be the judge!


Chef Alana Bilmes – Venvi The Bentley Yorkton, Saskatchewan

I started my culinary journey in my early 20’s, baking at Tim Horton’s (before everything came in pails or was frozen). From there I went to culinary school, where my passion for cooking took me to the top of my class. I went from golf courses to pubs and restaurants, and eventually my career took me to retirement living in 2003.

I obtained my Red Seal in cooking and am now working on my Red Seal in pastry.

My recipe for chili is one I have made many times, and more recently for a chili contest we had in January. I like the addition of bacon to it so I can use leaner ground beef, and really, who doesn’t like bacon in everything?

This is the recipe for my Venvi The Bentley Yorkton Chili with Bacon.

The Bentley Yorkton Chili with Bacon - Serves 60 (Reduce to 1/3 for a family meal and freeze the leftovers)


  • 3 Tbsp Oil
  • 3 Medium yellow onions – diced
  • 600 Grams of bacon diced (raw)
  • 10 Pounds lean ground beef
  • 5 Green bell peppers-diced
  • 6 Tbsp Chili powder
  • 3 Tbsp Ground cumin
  • 2 Tbsp Granulated sugar
  • 1 13 oz. Can of tomato paste
  • 4 Tbsp Garlic-minced
  • 3 1/2 Tsp Salt to taste
  • 1 1/2 Tsp Ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 Tsp Ground cayenne pepper (optional)
  • 1 (100 oz) Can diced tomatoes
  • 1 1/2 (100 oz) Can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/2 (100 oz) Can tomato sauce
  • 1-2 cups Beef broth (as needed)


  • Place a large soup pot on the stove. Add the oil to the pot and heat for 1 minute. Add the onions, green pepper, and bacon. Cook for 5-8 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Brown the bacon, then add the ground beef to the pot. Break it apart with a wooden spoon and cook for 6-7 minutes, until the beef is browned, stirring occasionally.
  • Add the chili powder, cumin, sugar, tomato paste, garlic, salt, pepper, and optional cayenne pepper. Stir until well combined.
  • Add the diced tomatoes (with their juice), drained beans, and tomato sauce. Stir well.
  • Bring the liquid to a low boil. Then, reduce the heat to gently simmer the chili, uncovered, for 20-25 minutes, stirring occasionally. Taste for seasoning and add more if needed.
  • If you find the chili is too thick, add beef broth to bring it to the consistency you like.
  • Let the chili rest for 5 minutes before serving.
  • Serve with shredded cheese, sliced green onions and sour cream.


Chef Bradley Taylor - Venvi King Gardens, Ontario

Hailing from more southern climates, I recently joined the team at Venvi King Gardens and have quickly acclimatized to the Venvi environment of delivering exceptional service and dining standards to our wonderful residents.

As an experienced chef with more than 40 years in the hospitality industry, my specialty is providing excellent customer service, maintaining high standards of food safety and sanitation, and creating innovative and delicious dishes. In recognition of National Chili Day on February 22nd, I offer you a taste of how this perennial favorite would be crafted in my kitchen. Here is my Venvi King Gardens Beef Chili recipe, sure to be the winner served at any table.

King Gardens Beef Chili - Serves 10-12


  • 2 Lbs. Lean ground beef
  • 1 cup Diced onions
  • 1 oz Chopped garlic
  • ½ cup Diced celery
  • ½ cup Diced red pepper
  • 1 cup Kidney beans
  • 1 cup Black beans
  • 1 cup Corn niblets
  • 2 Tbsp Oil
  • 2 Tbsp Chili powder
  • 1 Tbsp Chili flakes
  • 1 Tbsp Cumin powder
  • 1 Tbsp Cocoa powder
  • ½ Tsp Cracked black pepper
  • 2 Bay leaves
  • 114 oz Stewed tomatoes or purée
  • 1 cup Diced tomatoes
  • 1 cup Beer
  • ½ cup Tomato paste
  • 3 Tbsp Chopped fresh thyme
  • 3 Tbsp Chopped fresh cilantro or coriander
  • Salt to taste


  1. Sautee the beef and onions in oil over medium heat until meat is no longer pink, and onions are slightly browned. Pour off excess fat.
  2. Add the garlic, celery, red peppers, corn, chili flakes, beans, tomatoes, tomato paste, chili powder, cumin, cocoa, black pepper, thyme, and stir in the beer. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to low.
  3. Simmer, uncovered, for one hour, stirring frequently. Cover and simmer for an additional ½ hour.
  4. Before serving, stir in fresh chopped cilantro.

What makes it even tastier? Serving it on a bed of creamy Cheesy Polenta.

Cheesy Polenta


  • 2 Litres Vegetable stock
  • 3 Tbsp Butter or Margarine or Oil
  • 2.5 cups Corn meal – polenta – fine grind
  • 2 cups Parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup Shredded cheddar
  • 1 Tsp Salt (optional)
  • 3 Tbsp Dried thyme


  1. In a tall pot, add salt, thyme, and butter to the stock, and bring to a boil.
  2. Slowly whisk in the polenta, stirring frequently. If your polenta is very thick, whisk in some additional stock. The polenta should be creamy.
  3. Fold in parmesan and other cheese prior to service and while still hot, season with salt to taste.

Want to know more about the delicious meal plans being served at Venvi Senior Living communities? Call us today and book a tour and complimentary dinner at a residence near you.