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History of Chasen’s Chili:
Chasen’s Restaurant in Hollywood, California probably made the most famous chili. The owner of the restaurant, Dave Chasen (1899-1973), ex-vaudeville performer, kept the recipe a secret, entrusting it to no one.
1936 to 2000 – For years, he came to the restaurant every Sunday to privately cook up a batch, which he would freeze for the week, believing that the chili was best when reheated. “It is a kind of bastard chili” was all that Dave Chasen would divulge.
Chauffeurs and studio people, actors and actresses would come to the back door of Chasen’s to buy and pick up the chili by the quart. Other famous people craved this chili such as comedian and actor Jack Benny (1894-1974) who ordered it by the quart. J. Edgar Hoover (1895-1972), former Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), who considered it the best chili in the world, and Eleanor Roosevelt (1894-1962) wife of the 32nd President of the United States, Franklin D. Roosevelt, sought the recipe but was refused (a complimentary order was dispatched to her instead). It is said that Chasen’s also send chili to movie actor Clark Gable (1901-1960), when he was in the hospital (he reportedly had it for dinner the night he died).
During the filming of the movie Cleopatra in Rome, Italy, famous movie star, Elizabeth Taylor, had Chasen’s Restaurant in Hollywood, California send 10 quarts of their famous chili to her. She supposedly paid $200 to have it shipped to her in Rome:
Writing to Dave Chasen about his Chasens Famous Chili Recipe by Elizabeth Taylor, on location in Rome, 1962:
“The chili is so good. All gone now. Please send me ten quarts of your wonderful chili in dry ice to 448 Via Appia pignatelli. – Love and kisses, Elizabeth Taylor.”
The original Chasen’s restaurant closed in April of 1995, and the new Chasen’s on Cañon Drive closed permanently in April of 2000.
Learn about the history and legends of Chili, Chili Con Carne.
Chasen’s Famous Chili Recipe:
Chasens Famous Chili recipe from the cookbook Chasen’s – Where Hollywood Dined, by Betty Goodwin, published by Angel City Press, 1996.