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Chunky Brothers team hoping for a first-place win with their Swingin' Pot Chili

Chunky Brothers team hoping for a first-place win with their Swingin' Pot Chili

Jeff Brandenburg and his brother Rick started making chili for family and friends, just for fun.

They received such positive feedback that they decided to start entering contests.

“People would tell us, ‘This is pretty awesome!’” Jeff Brandenburg said. “The way we cook it is a little unique.”

Jeff, 51, of Charles Town, W.Va., and Rick, 56, of Hagerstown, cook their chili outdoors in a pot hanging from a tripod over a fire.

“We call it Chunky Brothers Swingin’ Pot Chili,” Jeff said. “We came up with the name because the pot never stops swinging.”

The Brandenburgs will be cooking up some of their swingin’ stew Saturday, Nov. 4, at the Interstate Chili, Wing and Rib Fest at the Washington County Agricultural Education Center south of Hagerstown. The event features nonprofessional competitions for chili, ribs and wings, as well as live music, games for adults and kids, dozens of local vendors, and other activities. The aim of the festival is to raise money for Girls Inc. of Washington County and is produced by Interstate Festival Group, which also runs the Interstate BBQ Festival, Quad State Beer Fest and Interstate Wine Fest.

At last year’s event, the Brandenburgs won first place in the fans vote and second place in the judges vote.

“This year, we have some people coming back, gunning to knock us off the trophy. So we gotta step it up,” Jeff said. “It’s a good spirited competition. It was really a great turn out and a lot of fun last year.”

Jeff said his brother, Rick, a district court commissioner, is a great cook.

“He would always come up with something for family get-togethers. He’d make jambalaya. We love to eat and we were always coming up with something. So we decided to get together and try chili,” Jeff said.

The resulting award-winning chili is somewhat of a family effort, Jeff said. He has done a lot of smoking ribs and barbecuing pulled pork and other meats. Rick has some experience working in restaurants over the years. Their father helped them construct the tripod and pot contraption that they use, and their mom is “a really good cook” who fostered in them a love food.

“We really love to eat, so that makes it easy to come up with good recipes and good food,” he said.

Jeff, who works a territory manager for an auto parts store, said the “chunky” in the Chunky Brothers Swingin’ Pot Chili name is a bit of a play on words.

“This chili is very hearty. It’s meaty, so it is chunky, but we are, you know, over the years, larger guys, but not huge, so that just kind out came out in the name,” he said with a laugh. “We were around the campfire and thinking up names for our chili and that’s what we pulled together.”

While Jeff is protective of the chili recipe, he revealed that the flavor is smoky and sweet.

“It’s a flavor that everybody can enjoy,” he said. “I think a lot of it is the way we cook it. It’s not too hot, but it still gets your attention. It’s not so hot that it turns away voters. We learned our lesson on that in other chili cook-offs,” Jeff said. “Even non-chili lovers love our chili.”

Their dish contains beef and sausage, he said, with “a little bit of beans, but not overwhelming.”

“We just have a good time with it. The fun of cooking it is just as fun as eating it,” he said.

In addition to the Interstate Chili, Wing and Rib Fest, the Brandenburg brothers have participated in contests at campgrounds and at an area high school. The Chili, Wing and Rib festival atmosphere was “very upbeat, very exciting, just a lot of fun,” he said.

“There is a little bit of smack talk between competitors, but it’s a great atmosphere,” Jeff said.

Attendance was better than he expected at last year’s inaugural event, and the brothers ran out of chili. They typically make about seven pounds per pot, he said, and this year, they will be doubling up.

“We were pretty busy last year. I think I tried one wing, that’s how busy it we were with our stuff,” he said. “I didn’t even try anybody else’s chili. That’s how busy it was.”

If you go ...

WHAT: Interstate Chili, Rib & Wing Fest
WHEN: Noon to 6 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 4. Rain or shine.
WHERE: Washington County Agricultural Education Center, 7313 Sharpsburg Pike, south of Hagerstown
COST: General admission including parking, entry, entertainment and more is $7 in advance, $10 at the gate; VIP admission including general benefits plus 15 sampling tickets, closer parking and expedited services is $25 in advance, $25 at the gate. Admission is free for children 12 and younger. Sampling tickets cost $1 each.
CONTACT: Go to or visit Interstate Chili, Rib & Wing Fest 2017 on Facebook.

Entertainment schedule:

  • The South Mountain Breed - noon to 2 p.m.
  • Luke Lucas and New Breed — 2 to 4 p.m.
  • Staff Infection - 4 to 6 p.m.

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