The Secret Ingredient

I found out yesterday that one of my college professors passed away, William Bohne. I only had him for one class, but it was a memorable one: Sculpture. On the first day of class, he handed us a ball of twine and told us to go home and make something with it.

I was terrified.

I love art, but it was always more of a hobby for me; I didn’t think I was particularly good at it. I took art in college because I wanted to learn more about it, immerse myself in it, not because I saw myself as being a famous painter.

I went back to my dorm room incredibly nervous. What was I going to make with twine? I broke it down to the basics: Twine is string, string is fabric, fabric is used to create clothes. I had just taught myself how to use a hat loom—perfect. The twine kept breaking on my hard plastic loom, but I just kept plugging away at it, becoming more gentle with the twine after each frayed string.

Yarn Head

Dr. Bohne was impressed. He claimed I was both creative and great at executing my ideas. (Me? I thought.) I told him how scared I was whenever he gave us a new project, and he told me sometimes the best things happen when we are a little scared.

Since sculpture class was a 2+ hour class, one day he decided we had enough time to go on a food trip. We had to make a clay food piece, so we would garner inspiration from one of his favorite local restaurants: Chili John’s. “The secret is that they add chocolate!” He told us excitedly. “You won’t get that taste anywhere else.”

He took us on a much longer trip later that year to the Chicago Art Museum, but it was always Chili John’s that I remembered: how excited he was at something that was seemingly so simple. Food as art. And, not to get too philosophical, but isn’t that what makes life fun? Getting excited about things as simple as chili and sharing your excitement with those around you?

I’ve had a craving for chili since I read that he died. I’m not sure how or why it happened.



Even though I remember Chili John’s chili being really good, I’ve never added chocolate to my own chili recipe. What if it was too much? What if it didn’t taste right? I don’t even know for sure that is their secret ingredient!

But then I thought, “Sometimes the best things happen when you’re a little scared.”


So add that chocolate. We can be scared together right before we enjoy a delicious bowl.


I used this recipe, along with 1/3 cup of cocoa powder.


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