Need a Good Cincinnati Chili Explainer for the Uninitiated? Check Out This Podcast

'The Sporkful' host Dan Pashman came to Cincinnati last year to find out what our local delicacy is all about and to talk to Jean-Robert de Cavel

Apr 19, 2019 at 10:58 am
click to enlarge Camp Washington Chili
Camp Washington Chili

If you ever need a good explainer on Cincinnati chili for your out-of-town or generally out-of-the-loop friends, you should direct them to this episode of Dan Pashman's great food podcast, The Sporkful

For the Love And Chili In Cincinnati episode, Pashman came to town to investigate our signature food, talking to local "eaters" (The Sporkful proudly declares it's for "eaters," not "foodies") and the owners of Camp Washington Chili. Last summer, he put a call out asking for tips about food that is "quintessentially Cincinnati" and, of course, many suggested chili (along with Arnold's, Findlay Market and Graeter's, which Pashman wasn't crazy about due to the chewy chocolate chips).

Pashman describes our chili well and it's interesting to hear an honest and thoughtful take from an outsider (unlike the usual "Oooh, gross — sweet chili on spaghetti!?"). Pashman declares Camp Washington Chili his favorite and, of the two chili chain juggernauts, he says he finds Skyline kind of bland and prefers Gold Star.

Keith Pandolfi, an accomplished food writer and Cincinnati native, is also a part of the podcast, discussing the Queen City's strange history of fine French cuisine. The second half of the podcast provides a history of that unlikely phenomenon and tells the story of local chef legend Jean-Robert de Cavel's move to Cincinnati several years ago (and his subsequent love for the city). 

Here's an overview of the podcast from the show's landing page.

If you know anything about food in Cincinnati, you probably know about the chili.

There are 250 chili parlors in Cincinnati -- that’s about three times more than the number of McDonald’s there.

"You can't be in Cincinnati and not have Cincinnati chili," one chili fan tells Dan, in this week's episode.

But this midwestern specialty has roots that span centuries and continents.

Today on the Sporkful, we follow Cincinnati chili from Sri Lanka to Greece to the American midwest. And we visit a chili parlor that embodies that rich history.

Camp Washington Chili opened in 1940. It's the oldest chili parlor in Cincinnati still owned by the family that opened it.

More than any of the other chili spots, Camp Washington is the standard bearer for Cincinnati chili. And the secret to Camp Washington's success is the spices."My husband has the secret recipe," says Camp Washington's owner Maria Papakirk. "That might be the reason that we're still together actually."

Plus later in the episode, we learn about Cincinnati's past as a hub of fine French dining, and Dan talks with Chef Jean Robert de Cavel (below) about his love affair with this midwestern city.

Below you can listen to the podcast on Spotify. It's also available on Apple Podcasts and via