A firefighter from Whitehorse is featured in a new Canadian cookbook for his original Yukon elk chili — and it's sweet, not hot.

Firehouse Chef showcases recipes from Canadian firefighters across the country. It began with Patrick Mathieu, a firefighter in Waterloo, Ont. who was compiling his recipes. He expanded his project and made a call for all fire departments across Canada for recipe submissions.

"I really wanted one that really showed off the Yukon and I guess that was a complete original." - Oliver Halickman

"[Mathieu's] a semi-pro chef, if you will," said Oliver Halickman, a firefighter with the Whitehorse fire department.

"So I submitted my recipe, I guess kind of reluctantly. I didn't think there'd be much uptake from it," said Halickman.

But he got an email back saying his recipe was chosen.

"I really do love to cook," said Halickman. "I love chili"

'Cat's out of the bag'

Halickman said he wanted to save his chili recipe for a chili cook-off some day. "But I guess now the cat's out of the bag," he said, laughing.

He's been developing the recipe over the years, and the year he started, he happened to hunt an elk. He said he wanted to concoct a recipe using the elk meat.

oliver halickman

'I love chili,' says Halickman, who created this original chili recipe. (Submitted by Jason Wolsky)

"I really wanted one that really showed off the Yukon and I guess that was a complete original."

And what inspired his move away from the heat?

"I really like what they call the Cincinnati-style chilis which are sort of sweet and chocolatey, rather than spicey."

Halickman said he used cinnamon and real cocoa powder (not the artificial Nesquik kind!) to "bring out the game flavour" of the meat.

The recipe also reveals his creative cooking secrets.

"I used a few little tricks of my own which are in the book, such as using the juice from pickled jalapenos to sort of make it a little zippy."

From national TV to local food bank

The recipe was recently featured on CTV's The Social.

"The hosts ate the chili and really enjoyed it. It was really cool to have our fire department mentioned on national television and of course, the Yukon mentioned too."

oliver halickman firefighters

A group of Whitehorse firefighters enjoying Halickman's Yukon elk chili. (Submitted by Oliver Halickman)

Halickman says the role of a firefighter is to serve the community.

"You know, you meet some firefighters who are gruff and grumpy, but they're really here to help," he said. 

That's why the proceeds for all the copies he's selling in Whitehorse will go to the Whitehorse food bank. There will be 100 copies available soon, for sale at Mac Fireweed book store.

The Recipe

oliver halickman elk chili

As a charity fundraiser, all proceeds from the Firehouse Chef cookbooks sold in Whitehorse will go to the local food bank. (Submitted by Jason Wolsky)

(This recipe excerpt was taken from the Firehouse Chef cookbook)

  • 1 Tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 lb ground elk or wild game (you can use beef if wild game is unavailable)
  • 3 Tbsp sliced pickled jalapenos, minced
  • 1 Tbsp pickling juice from jalapenos
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 15 oz can kidney beans, rinsed and drained
  • 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
  • 2 Tbsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp curry powder
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 2 tsp ground coriander
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • ½ cup BBQ Sauce (I like sweeter better than smokey)
  • 3 Tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp liquid honey
  • 2 Tbsp pure cocoa powder (not Nestle's Quik!)
  • 1 cup grated cheddar cheese, for serving
  • A couple loaves of good crusty bread, for serving

Use a large, heavy-bottomed pot and heat oil on medium heat. Cook the meat for about seven minutes, until it's browned and almost cooked through. Drain the excess fat and add jalapenos, jalapeno juice, onion and garlic. Cook for about five minutes.

Simmer the mixture for two minutes after adding beans and crushed tomatoes. Sprinkle in all the spices and leave it simmering for another two minutes. 

Add the BBQ sauce, red wine vinegar and honey and let it simmer for another two minutes. Reduce the heat to low and add the cocoa powder. Let the chili simmer for 30 minutes or longer. 

with files from Tara McCarthy