Old Mill has Otto’s recipe, prepared to use it

Earlier this year, Old Mill Tasty Shop owner Mary Wright put out a plea.

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.

Old Mill Tasty Shop owners Don and Mary Wright.

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.

Downtown Chili Cookoff results

My bud Travis Grover was on a chili cookoff team on Saturday. His team didn't win, but I'm told it produced a heckuva pot of green chili.

The Wichita Wagonmasters Downtown Chili Cookoff on Saturday may have set a new attendance record, organizers say. Though they don’t have final numbers in yet, they’re speculating that a record-breaking 9,000 people attended, sampling chili and watching crazy chili-centered contests and activities. (Sadly, the fire-eaters failed to break the world record, but it was an interesting spectacle nonetheless.)

The Grand Champion title, which comes with a $1,000 prize, went to Cindy Harmon and her Chili Cocineros. Cindy and co. also were grand champions in 2010.

As promised, here are the results from the competitive portion of the day.

Grand Champion:
First place: Chili Cocineros — Cindy Harmon, Whichita
Second place: Jeepers Creepers — Kelly Zehr, Wichita

ICS Salsa:
First place: Flatland Dreamers – Bill Spellman, Wichita

ICS Chili Verde:
First place: Toucan Chew 1 –  Bill Dudzik, Omaha

First place: Sterling Silver — Larry Bulla, Wichita

Anything Goes:
First place: American Family/ Dan Beat Agency – Brent Melroy, Wichita

Best Booth Award:
Security First Title: Jason Wasinger, Wichita

Team Spirit Award:
City of Wichita – Mayor Carl Brewer, Wichita