10-Alarm-Chili-Challenge-2

Photo courtesy of Dean Bach.

Eat Chili & Save Lives This Saturday in Ferndale


What makes a great chili recipe? Is it the choice of ground beef, turkey, etc.? Is it the number of spices? Maybe onion is the right call. Maybe garlic. Maybe both? Ask 10 different people entering their chili recipe in a chili cook-off what makes a great chili recipe and you’ll likely get 10 different answers.

The good news? You’ll actually have an opportunity to ask 10 (or more) chili chefs what their secret is at the 4th Annual Metro D 10 Alarm Chili Challenge on Saturday, November 4. Every year since 2014, this annual event has been put on to raise money for the Detroit Firemen’s Benevolent Fund (DFBF), a 501c(3) non-profit organization that was founded in 1866 to provide support and assistance to injured Detroit-area firefighters, widows and children of deceased firefighters.

After earning $125,000 in donations to the DFBF in the first year of the event, it was clear that co-organizers Dean “Dino” Bach of Dino’s Lounge in Ferndale, author, journalist and television personality Charlie LeDuff and American Coney Island owner Grace Keros had something good on their hands. But, how did these three Detroit-area residents & business owners come together to create such a fruitful event?

Read More


“How did it all start? Jeez,” Bach said. “The first one started when me and Charlie [LeDuff] were talking over cocktails, as we normally do, and he said, ‘Hey, I’m gonna shoot you in the face with a firehose. You’re gonna give me $100 for the fire department and I’ll put it on T.V.’ And I said, ‘You’re not shooting me with a firehose and I’m not gonna give you $100 to do that.’ [laughs] ‘Let’s come up with another way to make money for the fire department.’”

10-Alarm-Chili-Challenge-Windsor-Team

An important ingredient is added to Windsor Team’s chili. Photo courtesy of Dean Bach.

Bach and LeDuff were joined by Keros and the three got to work on coming up with something that wasn’t your run-of-the-mill chili cookoff.

“How do we spice up a chili cookoff?” Bach said. “…Kind of the thought behind it was that, back in the day, Coleman Young said that the suburbs would never cross Eight Mile to help Detroit, so we wanted to prove that wrong.”

The result was the Metro D 10 Alarm Chili Challenge. About 10 different teams representing different fire departments, police departments and other first responders each make their own chili recipe that is entered into the event. Patrons pay $10 to attend and sample all of the chili, after which they can cast their vote for whichever chili they deem “best.” The chili with the most votes wins the “People’s Choice” trophy.

There is also a “Grand Champion” that is decided by a secret team of judges. The team is so secret that no one knows who the judges are until the day of the event. Not even judges themselves know!

“We like to get some celebrities involved or we’ll pick a stranger that we know that comes to the event,” Bach said. “We’ll just make random choices and say, ‘You’re a judge. You’re gonna tell us your favorite.’”

10-Alarm-Chili-Challenge

Ferndale Fire Department Chief Kevin Sullivan (left) and Dean “Dino” Bach pose for a photo on the set of Fox 2 Detroit. Photo courtesy of Dean Bach.

Additionally, there is a “Team Spirit” trophy awarded to “the team that shows the most spunk.”

“Some of them get crazy and this year, again, it’s a much smaller event, they have a much smaller space to do it in, so it’ll be interesting to see how they pull it off,” Bach said. “Windsor, one year…[laughs]. Those guys are crazy. I think they’re the Hanson Brothers from Slap Shot the movie — ever see that? — that’s what these guys are like. They’re like a bunch of the Hanson Brothers. They’re all crazy [laughs] crazy firemen.”

This year, teams from Detroit, Hamtramck, Windsor, Sterling Heights, Ferndale (last year’s winner) and more will represent their respective departments.

“And usually we get more,” Bach said. “Somebody’s gonna call this week and say, ‘Hey, can I get in?’ and we wind up with 12 or 13 teams ‘cause we don’t like to say no.”

In its first two years, the event was held in Detroit and then, for its third year, at the Detroit Zoo. This year, however, Bach said they wanted to make the event more “intimate,” prompting the event to be held in the South 9 Pedestrian Alley in Ferndale behind Dino’s Lounge and J’s Penalty Box.

“This year we wanted to shrink it down, make it a little more intimate, more of a gathering for the first responders than it is a party for everybody else to come to because we could get 1,500 people to this event, but we didn’t want that big of a task this year,” Bach said.

While Bach may not have a personal stake in the first responder profession, he “feels the pain.”

“You see these people who don’t have insurance — that’s what we’re doing this for; it benefits the families of the people that have been killed in action or injured. They don’t get coverage for this stuff,” Bach said. “We paid for two funerals [last year] of two police officers that were killed. Whatever we can do to help. These people do a lot for us and they kind of get pimped when it boils down to something happening to them so we decide to do our part.”

Read Less