Hail to the Chef
Paul Rudolph is in his element when he’s making flavorful soups. On any given day you’ll find him lovingly stirring one of the 45 varieties of soup he prepares from scratch in massive stainless steel kettles in Tufts Dining’s central kitchen for 4,100 Tufts undergraduates.
Recently, though, it was a special batch of chili that got his culinary juices astir. Rudolph, lead second cook with Tufts Dining, went head-to-head with local restaurants at the Chili Cook Off on Jan. 28 to benefit RESPOND, a Somerville-based nonprofit that works to end domestic violence. His chili, a new student favorite, won first place, or “crowd favorite,” in the vegetarian chili category. (See below for the recipe.)
Rudolph, who has worked for Tufts Dining for 33 years, says his love of cooking began not far from where he works his savory magic. Growing up in Somerville’s Davis Square neighborhood, he was impressed by his mother, who cooked “a great variety of meals” for eight kids on a limited budget. One of Paul’s favorites was American chop suey. “No one makes American chop suey like my mom,” he says. He graduated with the first culinary arts class at Somerville High School and headed to Johnson & Wales University.
After graduation, he was hired to work in Carmichael Dining Center. When a new central kitchen opened up below Dewick-MacPhie Dining Center, he was ready for more responsibility. “I said, I’d like to come down and work here. I think the response was, And what are you going to do? I just said, Oh, I’m going to do the soups, the garnishes and all the salads, and all this and all that. I have been doing that ever since.”
Tufts Now: Why did you decide to enter the competition?
Paul Rudolph: My boss, executive chef Fred Norregaard, suggested I compete. I entered last year, but I was the only one who brought vegetarian chili, and there wasn’t a vegetarian chili category, so they couldn’t give it an award. This year they had vegetarian as a category.
Describe your chili.
It’s a little spicy and has a lot of flavors. It’s a blend of three beans—black beans, red beans and navy beans—with sautéed onions, garlic, green peppers, red peppers and yellow peppers. It’s mild; I was looking for that middle ground. It hits you and then it lingers and slowly goes away. I like to do heat that way. It has a “pow” and then it slowly goes away.
Would you say you have a signature ingredient?
Well, I did put in a new seasoning, a yellow pepper paste called Aji Amarillo from Peru, which gave it that little bit more heat than usual. It’s not a killer heat, but it’s got a kick to it. For this competition, I also served a cornbread crouton. I wanted to do cornbread, but I just wanted a little bit. It was Fred who said, “Why don’t you cut it up and make croutons out of it?” I think that helped bring it up to the top.
What were your expectations going in?
I had just a little bit of hope, but I also thought it’s OK if I don’t win. Really, just being there and having people enjoy what I do is enough. Ultimately, that’s what I like: when somebody enjoys what I cook.
So whether you win or lose. . .
Right, it doesn’t matter. I was there for the cause and for people to enjoy my food. And when somebody outside realizes that [Tufts] students get food of this high quality—that’s also great.
What’s your advice for other chili makers?
Always have nice, fresh ingredients. And always taste it along the way to make sure—“Oh, it needs a little bit of this, a little bit more of that.”
Does your chili have a name?
I never gave it a name, but I think we’re going to call it Paul’s Award-Winning Veggie Chili on the menu at Tufts Dining.
Laura Ferguson can be reached at email@example.com.
Chef Paul’s Award-Winning Veggie Chili
1 ¼ cups red kidney beans, canned, drained
1 ¼ cups navy beans, canned, drained
1 ¼ cups black beans, canned, drained
2 Tbsp. canola oil
1 ½ cups onion, diced
1/3 cup celery, diced
1 ¼ cup carrots, diced
2 cups green and/or red pepper, diced
1 clove garlic, chopped fine
1 ½ cups diced tomatoes, canned
2 Tbsp. tomato paste
¼ tsp. oregano, dried
½ tsp. chili powder
2 ½ Tbsp. cumin, ground
¼ tsp. red hot sauce
1 tsp. balsamic vinegar
¾ tsp. kosher salt
½ cup canned tomato juice
¼ tsp. red crushed pepper
½ tsp. black pepper
½ tsp. aji amarillo/yellow pepper paste (hot) or another hot sauce
1. Over medium heat, add canola oil to skillet and sauté garlic, onions, celery, carrots and peppers until al dente.
2. Combine all beans.
3. Add spices and beans to sautéed vegetables.
4. Add all rest of ingredients; adjusting amount of tomato juice to desired consistency.
5. Simmer for 20 to 30 minutes.
Yield: 1 ½ quarts