‘The Office’: Kevin Malone’s Famous Chili Scene Was ‘Kind of Controversial’

When most people think of Kevin Malone, they think of chili. Thanks to The Office, the fictional Kevin character and the actor Brian Baumgartner have become synonymous with the comfort food. Ironically, showrunners thought the now-iconic scene was “controversial” behind-the-scenes.

Brian Baumgartner, who has become known for Kevin Malone's chili on 'The Office'
Brian Baumgartner | Byron Cohen/NBC/NBU Photo Bank

Kevin Malone’s most famous scene from ‘The Office’ 

The Office often relied on cold opens. These introductory clips didn’t necessarily have anything to do with the episode’s story. Instead, these scenes could tell self-contained stories. Perhaps the most memorable cold open from The Office was when Kevin Malone brought in his famous chili. 

“At least once a year, I like to bring in some of my Kevin’s Famous Chili,” the accountant says before walking into the building. Once inside, he finds the elevators out of order. Despite managing to climb the stairs successfully, Kevin accidentally dumps his hard work all over in one of the show’s most hilariously awkward scenes. 

Kevin Malone actor started cooking chili after ‘The Office’ 

Back in February, Showbiz Cheat Sheet spoke with Baumgartner over the phone. Ironically, The Office star got more into cooking chili after filming the iconic scene from the series. 

“I do cook quite a bit,” Baumgartner shared. “I enjoy a lot of those types of foods that take a long time — [the kind] that change the way a house feels and smells — your experience of the space.” Baumgartner’s iconic role on The Office sparked a partnership with Bush’s Baked Beans. 

Brian Baumgartner’s podcast reveals the struggle of filming that famous chili scene 

In the past, Baumgartner has shared how he filmed that chili scene in one take. “They had three pots [and] they had to put a piece of carpet over the other carpet,” Baumgartner explained to Us Weekly. “They had gigantic pieces because it was a mess and they knew it was gonna be a mess.” But they only needed one piece of carpet because Baumgartner nailed the scene on the first take. 

On his Office Deep Dive podcast, Baumgartner revealed even more behind-the-scenes intel from the set that day. “I showered, I showered, and scrubbed and [was] throwing dirty towels out of the shower to the wardrobe people,” Baumgartner recalls of the aftermath. “We filmed it at the end of the day and Oscar (Nuñez), Angela (Kinsey), and I had dinner that night. I walked in and all I could do was smell chili. It was just in my skin.” 

Kevin Malone’s chili scene was ‘controversial’ according to Paul Lieberstein 

Most fans — if not all — recognize Baumgartner best as “the chili guy” from The Office. “It is by far the thing people talk to me about the most,” Baumgartner told Paul Lieberstein, a writer, director, and actor from The Office, during their conversation on the podcast

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“I thought it was a beautiful moment — I never thought it would be [like] this,” Baumgartner continued. According to the actor, that scene was a “humongous departure” from anything that was ever done on the show.” 

As Baumgartner explains, the show had not previously done a cold open that only featured one Office character reciting an extended monologue. What’s more, the entire intro is dubbed with a voiceover, which was another first for the series. 

“It was kind of controversial at the time,” Lieberstein added, mentioning how some people didn’t want to do the now-iconic chili scene. It’s unclear what the controversy was about. Whether it was the style of the scene or the mess required, The Office fans are glad the scene worked out.