How The Office's Brian Baumgartner Embraced Being A Chili Icon - Exclusive

Few people are more aware of how one action can change the trajectory of a life than Brian Baumgartner. In the cold open for "Casual Friday," the Season 5 episode of the hit television show "The Office," Baumgartner made waves. He stars as accountant Kevin Malone, who brings in his once-a-year pot of his famous family chili — and promptly dumps it all over the floor in a slapstick comedic performance that causes both tears of laughter and sadness from the viewers as Kevin scrambles in vain to save his pot of chili.

Although only a short portion of the show, the scene became one of the series' most memorable Kevin moments and intrinsically tied Baumgartner to chili. The irony is that prior to the show, Baumgartner had never even made chili. In an exclusive interview with Mashed, the actor talked about embracing a life of chili, which culminated in the release of his new chili cookbook, "Seriously Good Chili Cookbook: 177 of the Best Recipes in the World."

Chili icon by accident

Becoming known for chili practically overnight came as a shock to Brian Baumgartner. "It's crazy. If you had asked me 10, 12 years ago, however long it's been, if I would still be talking about chili now, I never would've believed it," he said. 

Despite the scene, Baumgartner had been a chili novice. "I'd never made chili before this event on 'The Office' and started making it. I made it as a joke for fun and posted a picture, and people got into it." He started making more and more chili, developing techniques and learning what works and doesn't — and he discovered that making good chili isn't always easy. Baumgartner said, "[Chili] is something that you work on and takes a lot of time." But therein lies the beauty: "There's something communal about chili, about making it, about people gathering together and doing it."

Since then, Baumgartner has embraced accidentally falling into chili stardom. In addition to learning to make his own chili, he has judged at the World Championship Chili Cook-off and has published a cookbook that includes 177 chili recipes spanning different styles. To think it all started with a pot of spilled chili!

"Seriously Good Chili Cookbook: 177 of the Best Recipes in the World" is available for purchase now.