Wednesday, November 19, 2008

In Memory: Joe Canavan

For the last seven or so years I have enjoyed the chili of an amazing man. I was introduced to Joe Canavan's World Class Chili by a co-worker when I was working down town. It was truly world class chili; the best, in my opinion, on the west coast. A group of friends and I had been eating at McKinley soups at Westlake center on pretty much a weekly basis (although we also ate at other restaurants there), but we quickly started walking the extra five blocks to Joe's place in the Pike Place Market. Joe was always very friendly with his customers, although he was known as the "chili Nazi" to some people due to him chasing non-customers away from a table he had just outside his restaurant. We used to sit at that table specifically during lunch hour to make it easier on him as he was there at work, starting every day at 6AM, over seventy years old and with bad hips that hurt him.

Joe was a Marine (not Army, as his obituaray is currently saying) and had fought in the Korean War, taking part in the Battle of Chosin. You could tell he was special; he'd been there and had seen hard things, but was enjoying life; he was tough but fair and friendly if you were.

I started helping him out; I did his website and would go in once or twice a month to help him with his computer. Robin and I helped judge the chili contests he ran at the market and tabulated all the results from the voting for him so he could concentrate on other things. It was the least I could do as thanks to a man who had fought for our country, and who was so nice to those around him.

Joe died this month while snorkeling in Maui. We'd talked about his trip for a couple of months... I lived on the island for a while and sent him ideas for things to do during their first trip to Hawaii. I don't know if he was at one of the locations I suggested when he had a heart attack, but regardless, he went out as I knew him; active despite his pains, living life to its fullest.

Joe, I will miss you and keep you in my thoughts. You set the gold standard in my book for chili, and were an inspirational person in my life. I can offer no higher tribute.

EDIT: A food writer for the Seattle Times has blogged about Joe.

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