Trip to Columbus for Fiery Food Festival

Day 1

Hey it’s Buddah reporting from Columbus, Ohio the night before their annual Fiery Food Festival at the North Market. I made it to Ohio in just 6 hours travel time. The anticipation of the event is high because there are so many things packed into the 2 days. The event is now being orchestrated by CaJohn Hard, who gives us an Open House at his new facility. Free food, product sampling and if desired a
guided tour through the hot facility.

I am accompanied by my friend Eric and his Dad who is attending his first event. We start off at Cajun Island Restaurant for lunch. Owned by Nick Ney who is the creator of the Cajun Island line of award winning products. He is popular at shows for making blackened pork and chicken and serving it with his sauces. The restaurant is new and I was curious to see how Nick was doing. While the location at a small food court in a flea market type of mall he told us that he is doing pretty good so far after 6 months plus. The food was fantastic highlighted by blackened chicken with bowtie pasta in an awesome cream sauce. He also brought us a blackened ribeye, Buffalo wings and pizza. The only thing I thought was average was the pizza, but I am a picky New Yorker who expects his pizza to be perfect.

After we thanked Nick and said our goodbyes we headed to CaJohn’s Fiery Foods for their Open House. Of course there was food, but we held out for dinner before we sampled some of their spicy offerings. Since I had seen their new facility the year before, I just walked around greeting all my friends and saying hello to new ones. Including Rick McMillen, the new owner of Chile Pepper Magazine. He got a full dose of my blabbering, but despite my endless chatter we had some rather interesting conversations. It seems the magazine is in for a resurgence.

These gatherings are the heart and soul reason for me why I got involved in the spicy world. There are so many good people and you feel the warmth as soon as you enter the room. Centered around John CaJohn Hard who makes you feel like you are family even if you meet him for the first time. When you eventually leave and head back home you feel like a part of you is being left behind. That sense of loss stays with you until the next event.

I filmed a little tour of the facility once it was starting to empty a bit, which I will share with you when I am back home. I am excited by the show tomorrow which I am sponsoring 3 things. The Spicy Cherry Challenge which is something I created just for the vendors. I reached out to all the companies attending the show a couple of months ago. I let them know that I will be giving a special award to the company that makes the best spicy cherry product just for the show. The feedback was excellent so I am anxious to taste their inspirations.

I am also sponsoring the Amateur hot sauce contest as well as the 1st Annual Heartbreaking Dawns’ Scorn Bread Challenge, which is a very spicy corn bread eating contest. We did the Ghost Brownie Brawl Buster last August at a show and it went over quite well. Both of these contests are set for Sunday. Saturday I am entering my version of guacamole, called Buddahmole and my Douglah Howser, M.D. salsa in the respective Amateur contests.

At the show over the next 2 days there are both amateur and professional chili cookoffs, a jalapeno eating contest, CaJohn’s. Wing Eating contest is a huge event too. Plus the last event Sunday is the spicy ice cream eating contest by Crazy Uncle Jester who has some awesome award winning products that I highly recommend trying. There is also a Fiery Asian Dinner planned Saturday evening after the show at a local Chinese restaurant, and a Chileheads Brunch to kick off the show Sunday.

Folks, it is going to be fun! Videos will be coming soon. Come swing by and see our new spicy cooking contest, “Feast Your Eyes on This”. Sunday evening at 6pm est we will announce the Round 1 results and the new challenge for Round 2. Until next time, Buddah out!

29 thoughts on “Trip to Columbus for Fiery Food Festival

  • February 20, 2011 at 8:56 am

    Day 2- Fiery Food Show

    For those that never have been to the North Market in Columbus, it is a 90% food market with all kinds of ethnic cuisine to take out or sit in their dining area upstairs. It is a place where people go to for lunch and dinner, yet still can shop for something to make at home. CaJohn’s Fiery Food has a small space where people can come sample and buy any of their products. He has bbq sauce, salsa, marinades, wing sauces, mustards and of course hot sauces of all levels.

    Admit it or not, the Fiery Food Show would not be, if it wasn’t for the presence of CaJohn. After a few years of some tweaking, CaJohn has taken the reins, and stretched it to a 2 day event. One needs a schedule to walk around with in order to know when everything is taking place. Saturday they kicked the event off at 10am with the amateur guacamole contest, followed by a chef chili cookoff at 11am, then proceeded by the 12:30pm amateur chili cookoff. At 2pm, the Heartbreaking Dawns(HBD) Scorn Bread Challenge debuted with rousing success as Steve Smallwood had no problems eating the bread over 3 rounds of heat enhancements including a bhut jolokia butter called, “Buddah Bhutta” as a tribute from Johnny from our discussions over the phone. The last round Johnny had a fruity bhut preserve which I can attest to was very hot. We have video of the whole event to be shown sometime in the next week.

    At 3-ish we had the jalapeno contest where a young lady won. I am sorry I missed that as I was relieving Wendy, the Spice Goddess from her post at the front. She was in charge of selling show hot sauce for $5 and t-shirts which were $16 which also came with a subscription to Chile Pepper Magazine. Thanks to Rick McMillan, the new owner of the magazine who was in attendance for the generous offer. After speaking to him at length on Friday, the new look of the magazine with be more personable taking a look at the people that make up the hot sauce industry and giving a voice to small companies looking for their niche. Hopefully he will be able to deliver and more because the magazine had become stale over the years.

    As the show continued people grabbed bites downstairs, took side trips to the many microbreweries surrounding the North Market, of which there are many. A lot of that has to do with the presence of the Ohio State collegient element in town. One highlight beyond the show itself was some sharing that seems to always goes on between the chileheads. Our friend Hudd brought some homemade peanut and nougat bar much like a Payday candy bar. Firehead Thomas brought the best oatmeal cookie that I have ever had which were also laced with the super hot yellow 7 pot chile. They were plenty hot, but even better tastewise. I shared some of the salsa I jarred prior to the event with some douglah 7 pot. It was a slow heat, but I got good feedback sharing with some of my chilehead friends. I am entering a non-cooked batch into the salsa contest Sunday at 1:30pm.

    Overall the 1st day of the event brought in staggering numbers, and one vendor who was at the Zestfest show said there were more people here than in the big Texas Show. Such a small venue as this was, it says a lot. Downstairs in the market place, there was participation from some of the vendors with some spicy entries, even the bakery, tea-smoothie, and ice cream shop get involved. It was bumper to bumper people walking around and it was very hard to get where you want to go if you really want to get there. Best thing to do is have patience and do not wait to use the bathroom.

    The sponsored ILIS Spicy Cherry Challenge had some pretty good entries, and the chilehead votes, (which were broken down to top 3 for each ballot), had 9 different products garner votes,. The voting was really close and came down to 5 products, 2 tied for 2nd, and 2 more 2 tied for 4th only 2 points behind them. The winner will be announced prior to the Amatuer Hot Sauce event at 12:30pm Sunday.

    Once the event was over for the day, the next big thing was the gathering for the Fiery Asian Dinner. We had a huge crowd, I am guessing of about 40 people. The food was so good, but incredibly spicy. The meals were so hot, milk was brought out to one of the tables for relief. Even CaJohn said it was incredibly spicy for him, and that says a lot. The chefs at the China Dynasty Restaurant deserve huge props for bringing it chilehead style in ways we will soon not forget. Jim Duffy of also deserves to be recognized for supplying CaJohn the chiles for the special dinner. The soy sauce especially was painful with unknown chiles floating in the salty liquid. Despite the pain, people kept going back for more. Good times.

    Well, it is now Sunday morning, and I am anxiously awaiting Day 2, which kicks off with a chilehead brunch at $12/person. They have several people making meals for us, and it will be quite special. Until later, have a great day all. :heart: :_redpepper:

  • February 20, 2011 at 9:39 am

    I forgot to add that my Buddahmole took it’s first defeat. I am not sure what went wrong, but I was not impressed with the top 2. The 2nd place must’ve been a mistake because it was like apple sauce and tasted odd. Congratulations to them nonetheless. I will see how my salsa fairs today, but not expecting to win, just get decent feedback. Looking forward to judging the hot sauce contest though. :winner:

  • February 20, 2011 at 10:32 am

    Sounds like fun….wish I were there 😥

  • February 21, 2011 at 8:30 am

    I wish you guys were hear too. It was a total blast. Jim, Congrats on the sale of your company. I hope this frees you up in the future to attend the shows.

  • February 21, 2011 at 9:39 am

    Day 3

    Reporting the next day, I type this with a sadness in my heart knowing that soon I will be headed back to my life and leaving the people I so cherish behind. If I ever get me a wife and family, maybe I will not feel such heartship, but I miss my chilehead family all ready. I really missed Sandi and Bill Kraft who have been a mainstay at these events, and did not come this year. Now I miss the rest as I prepare my last words to you on the trip that was Columbus.

    The day started off with a huge ass line to the chilehead brunch, prepared by some of the vendors like Cajohn, the Urban Chef, HBD’s Johnny, to name a few. At least the ones I knew that contributed. It took about 30 minutes plus to get from the back of the line to the food if you decided to wait until the food was officially ready. There was quite a lot of choices and most of them were very tasty. Kudos to the chefs and crew that assembled the feast. Personally, I probably would have been fine with a waffle downstairs without the long wait, but I was happy to have experienced it. I wish the food was a tad spicier, but they were catering to the masses, and not the higher tolerance heat level.

    At 12:00, that was some chile art, but too weird for my taste and they did not do a good job of displaying anything but one piece to the crowd. Then at 12:30, we announced the Spicy Cherry Challenge Chilehead Choice Champion (try saying that fast a few times). In a close race between 5 products, Heartbreaking Dawns captured the title with a chocolatey decadent dessert called the Cherry Bomb. It was a chocolate covered red velvet style cake with a cherry flavoring that seems to capture the hearts of the lovers of sweet chocolate bliss. Behind the cherry bomb, were Crazy Uncle Jester & Ole Ray with their sweet offerings of cherry bbq sauce. One was chunky and one was smooth. They were tied for 2nd. Then right behind them, and also tied were Race City Sauces with their hot sauce, also called Cherry Bomb and another offering from HBD with their cherry jolokia sauce. There were some other votes scattered between other products, but the majority of the votes went to these 5 products. Thanks for all that took the time and made the effort to participate in this special vendor’s only challenge. Congrats again to Johnny, who also was the winner of Round 1 of our “Feast Youy Eyes on This” Spicy Cooking Challenge. Round 2’s challenge has just been posted as of last night if you care to watch the video on that.

    Once we announced the winner of that contest, we moved onto the Amateur Hot Sauce contest. I was also in charge of the sponsorship on that, so I got to select the judges. I used my crackerjack review staff that were at the show- Firehead Thomas, Steve “The Machine” Smallwood, and Wendy the Spice Goddess. You will know more why I am dubbing the title of “The Machine” onto Steve Smallwood as I release some of the videos from the weekend. You might not believe your eyes. :weightlifting:

    As for the judging, we had 14 products. Some hot, some not so, and some quite the opposite. I had a nice flop sweat going on. I also tasted some really nice flavors in the mix. There was a orange sesame style wing sauce that really stood out for me, but the winner was also a previous winner in past years, Donovan Stanley. He made a very smooth jalapeno offering that he told me he will share with us sometime soon. Congrats Donovan on your victory! Well done.

    Right behind the hot sauce contest came the Amateur salsa contest. I did not have high hopes with my entry, and I was not surprised by the results. Except one judge said it was awesome. Hit or miss, but I think I let it sit at room temperature too long and when I tried it after the contest, I did not like it much either. There were some tasty salsas, but no wow factor. The winner that was selected had mint in it, not bad, but I will stick with my favorites I have in the industry. Congrats to the young lady who won the prize on that. Very creative salsa.

    At 2:30, in came the Crazy one, Jeff aka Crazy Uncle Jester with his scary Ice Cream Sundae contest. This stuff is extreme. He has extremely hot sauces- hot fudge, caramel, marshmellow, and his evil black cherry “Make Me Cough Drop” at the cherry on the sundae. The contest was over in less than 2 minutes, and the sick look on their faces spoke volumes. The first and second place winners were shaking from the onslaught of raging fire that was in their belly. I am sorry I did not film this, and I hope someone did to share with us. Unfortunately, I was helping CaJohn gather the wing sauces in the kitchen for his wing contest up next, and missed the whole thing. I only saw the faces afterwards.

    The wing contest keeps changing every year. CaJohn wanted to help the other vendors, so he took some of the shows hottest sauces and used them in each round of the contest. There are 7 rounds of wing eating, 3 wings per plate, except in the last round where there are 10 wings. These are not small wings either, so you better come hungry. Every round, they weed out the weak stomaches until only the strong and brave are left. Some of the sauces were from Crazy Uncle Jester with his new Jolokia Wing Sauce, the Urban Chef with his Jolokicious Sauce, Dragonfire’s Hot Sauce, HBD Trinidad Sauce 1498?(I can’t remember that damn number lol), CaJohn’s Fiery Food Show Sauce, and Race City Sauce Works 98 Octane Turbo. Then in round 7, CaJohn mixed all the sauces together for the ultimate punch. Steve “The Machine” Smallwood took it in a close race with another worthy competitior. He took top prizes in this contest and the Scorn bread challenge yesterday. I do not even think he had more than 1 to 2 drops of sweat in both contests combined.

    Once the wing event was over, it was almost time to set the sails and leave the North Market. We said our goodbyes to those that would not be able to join us for dinner, and wondered where all the time had went. We gathered at our Mexican stomping grounds, Fiesta Jalisco a couple of hours later. It has been CaJohn’s choice for food on most trips, and we are always happy to come back. The food is also great. CaJohn, from the huge heart he has, treated the table for our meal. Something he doesn’t have to do because we cherish the time spent with him, and the price tag on that is worth a lot more than a Mexican dinner. Thanks to him and Sue for their kindness and to making us all feel like part of the family. It is sad that it is all over, at least until the next show. I wish I was going to Albuddahquerque in 2 weeks, but it will have to wait to Mid-May at Peppers at the Beach, a free show for vendors that was a blast last year. Until then, I will really miss these guys. Thanks to all that helped me forget my job at the US Postal Service, especially my judges and ILIS staff, my riding companions- Team Grant, my Chilehead and vendor friends, and the Hard family who made it all possible.


  • February 21, 2011 at 10:49 am

    Great reporting as always, Buddah.

    To address something you mentioned about brotherhood and heartship…it doesn’t matter if one is married or not, or has a nuclear family or not…the greater group of chileheads and vendors ARE a family. I still feel a longing to see all of you guys, and I miss you tremendously between shows. I am so glad that I stopped being a lurker at the old HSB in the early years and actually jumped into this community. You all are the best people on earth. You are like brothers and sisters to me, and many will be lifelong friends. :heart:

    I’m sad I missed this event, and disappointed that I’m missing the FFS in ABQ. My next “guaranteed” show will be New Orleans. Peppers at the Beach is still up in the air for me – I wish Rehoboth Beach, DElaware were closer, or at least within driving distance for me. 🙁

  • February 21, 2011 at 12:49 pm

    Thanks Scott. You were missed for sure. If you wanted to crash at my place for Peppers weekend, I could drive the 3 hours plus there and back. No extra bed, but a comfy couch. My airport(IAD) is not far from me.

  • February 21, 2011 at 1:52 pm

    Very nicely done Buddah….except, I dubbed Smallwood “The Machine” 😎

  • February 21, 2011 at 1:59 pm

    You can have credit. There was lot of names but that fits the best. :_thumbsup:

  • February 21, 2011 at 3:27 pm

    as long as no one thinks I’m the machine from movie 8mm.

  • February 21, 2011 at 3:33 pm

    I guess I will have to look into that now. LOL. Great hanging with you Steve. I hope you plan on joining in the other gatherings.

  • February 21, 2011 at 3:46 pm

    I”ll go to as many as I can I had a blast with everyone.

  • February 21, 2011 at 9:44 pm

    Who won the chef and amateur chile cookoff?? I thought Thomas entered into one of them?

  • February 21, 2011 at 11:55 pm

    not sure if Thomas entered the chili contest or not. I’m eating a bowl of his chili right now and if he didn’t enter, he should have. Very tasty!!!

  • February 22, 2011 at 7:41 am

    Unfortunately, they closed the entries on that chili contest before I could even consider it. I used your Yellow 7 Pot Chiles in my cookie handout for this festival and they got very good reviews! It was an oatmeal cookie with dried cherries, white chocolate chips and a candied Yellow 7 Pot Pepper swirl….they were pretty damn good :_punk:

  • February 22, 2011 at 10:16 am

    yes they were!

  • February 23, 2011 at 3:29 pm


  • February 23, 2011 at 3:30 pm


  • February 23, 2011 at 3:47 pm

    THE MACHINE! :weightlifting:

  • February 23, 2011 at 8:30 pm


  • February 23, 2011 at 8:31 pm

    Judging hot sauce….

  • February 24, 2011 at 12:29 am

    Firehead they weren’t pretty good.They pretty F’N AWESOME!!!! Best cookie I’ve ever had period! Really killer job man.

  • February 24, 2011 at 7:16 am


  • December 13, 2011 at 6:56 pm

    Please call me when you have time. Thanks. I would like to ask you if we can host a gathering at Cajun Island. John

  • December 13, 2011 at 10:24 pm

    I think you need to contact Nick about that. I sent you an email.

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