She was looking for someone, anyone, who had a copy of the chili recipe that original owner Otto Wermke used when he ran the restaurant at 604 E. Douglas. He opened it on March 1, 1932. The Wrights bought the restaurant from Wermke’s sister in 1982.
Wright remembered eating the chili with her dad when she was younger, and it was one of her best memories. She sent out postcards and advertised her search for the recipe far and wide.
Several months ago, she found it. A woman in Eufaula, Okla., mailed the recipe to Wright, saying that her husband — a firefighter — had been a regular diner at Old Mill when Wermke owned it. He loved the chili and managed to get Otto to share the recipe right before he moved to Oklahoma. The woman had heard that Wright was looking for the recipe and wanted her to have it. “She was just the sweetest thing,” Wright said.
Wright has tested the recipe and says it tastes wonderful. She’s going to enter it in the Wichita Wagonmasters Downtown Chili Cookoff, scheduled for Sept. 29, and begin serving it in the restaurant that day. It’ll be available as a special throughout the fall at least. Wermke used to serve his chili from October through May only, she said.
The chili is different from traditional Tex-Mex style chili. It’s made with chunks of steak and has more of a beef-broth base rather than the traditional tomato base.
The Chili Cookoff is scheduled for noon in the 600 block of E. Douglas, right in front of Old Mill.
On a side note, Happy Birthday to Mary’s son and co-owner Don, who is celebrating his big day today, according to The Facebook.