NOLA: The Good, The Bad and the Ugly

I love New Orleans. It is one of my favorite cities to go to. To bring a hot sauce show to this place is like giving me a birthday present. I want nothing more than this show to succeed, so I can come back here for the rest of my life, year in and year out to enjoy everything this past weekend had to offer. Well, as long as I can afford to do it at any rate, I will be here no questions asked. With that said, I am a bit worried after attending the event this weekend about whether it can make it back. Yet, I am also privy to some information that may make it one of the biggest chile shows on the planet next year. If all goes as I expect it to be, then it will be a show that vendors will be adding to their must do roster.

I am teetering with the good and the bad of the show. The good was the general fun, and there is a lot of it. Starting and ending with friends of the chile community. Whether it be strolling through the show, over dinner or lounging around the hotel pool area, the highlight for me is just talking to so many great people. Even meeting new companies like Reva Foods, Cuddin’ Eddie, Sicily’s Finest Gourmet Foods and first timers Chris and Mike of Wicked Cactus Sauces. Plus, future ILIS reviewers Ken Alexander and Frog Leg Deathmatch Champ, Zzombie and his family whom I became friends with instantly because of their passion to be a part of it all. There is no end for me in this community as it grows every show I attend. We can talk to the wee hours of the night about a broad range of topics, but most of the time we discuss the ups and downs of the chile world experience.

Then there was the time spent in the French Quarter after the Saturday’s event. My bud Eric and I joined Heartbreaking Dawns’ Nicole and Johnny for dinner at a quaint German bistro. Then we scurried over to Bourbon Street and the on going party above the street at a private balcony with open bar. All thanks to the show’s sponsor, Brian and Chris of Louisiana Pepper Exchange. Two years in a row, providing the entertainment for those that can remember the fun the next day. A HUGE thanks goes out to them for being a major supporter of the show.

We had the award ceremony there with an open bar for chileheads. Which is probably bad enough, but then you throw in all those bead necklaces to entice the crowd below. Hey, even I can’t turn that down. I was a little, tiny bit tipsy from a few of those weak hurricane drinks they were serving. As a result, I provided the ugly as I licked wet beads taken from a puddle in the street and placed around my neck by someone I do not know. Not just once, but 4 times. As a germophobe, I can tell you that I regret doing it. Who knows what I inherited by doing that? Eeeeesh! I remember someone taking pics of that, so I am sure I will eventually be Facebooked(is that a word yet?) with them, if I haven’t been all ready.

As for the award ceremony, hands got sore as we clapped and cheered for everyone that got an award. It was a celebration for each other that I truly am thankful that I witnessed. I did film the action too. It might appear to be boring to some, I will admit that. Yet, after receiving a few Fleur de lis awards the often quiet Captain Thom exposes his chest and tummy several times, enticing the room with his colorful pasties. It is not to be missed. Look for that in the coming days. The good Captain also received the Show Honors for Best of Show for his Thai Monkey hot sauce. Congrats Capt and thanks for the show! Also a big tip of the hat to all the winners, some first timers! If I get a list I will add it.

Some more good things about the show were the events that took place. Starting with the spectacle that was the Defcon Frog Leg Eating Contest that I helped arrange. Despite some bad setup that caused the contest to be delayed for almost 45 minutes, it was truly fun to watch. I have some editing to get done before the video gets posted as I just returned this evening. In the meantime, you can watch the EatMoreHeat version with commentary HERE. I can’t seem to get their Stickam video to show up on our website, so this is the best I can do.

There was also the much anticipated Intensity Academy Lick-A-Thon. I think anyone who watched that had some serious laughs as we put on a show that went way past just tongue pain. We had some phone calls and an arm wrestling match between EatMoreHeat’s John Scrovak and yours truly. He never had a shot. I broke out the video cam midway through and focused it on the soon to be 3rd time champion, Vic Clinco, then I decided to check my email messages as I was slurping away on the spicy lolly. Scrovak also did some pushups to keep the follies rolling along. The contest was too long because of the size of the new skull shaped lolly, but we did everything we could to keep the interest of the crowd. Congrats to Vic on his well earned lick trophy. You truly suck more than me.

How about the cooking? We had a rematch of our Feast Your Eyes on This Spicy Cooking Challenge between winner Clement Bourg of Cajun Heat and runner-up Johnny of Heartbreaking Dawns. They of course pulled the wool over our eyes as they turned the Shrimp on Grits Throwdown to a collaborated effort of their cooking styles. They did fool us, but if you tried their Cajunbreaking Dawns bacon-wrapped Shrimp on Grits, you wouldn’t have cared. It was quite the tasty morsel.

We did have a throwdown though, a chili throwdown. On Sunday, the crowd decided the meaty fate of Cousin Boudreaux and JACS Tailgaters, the two friends and now competitors. Samples were handed out from their bubbly cauldrons, and the crowd cast their vote as soon as their taste buds allowed them too. JACS took it running away with the votes as the crowd was swayed by his tomato cumin style chili. Cousin Boudreaux was quite gallant in defeat though. A tip of the hat for both of them.

Tracy Carter of JACS Tailgaters had a dream to bring a hot sauce show to New Orleans. The dream is a reality, but he will tell you there were a lot of pot holes in the road to getting this show here to this point. Any new show is going to have growing pains, and this show is not short of them. This brings me to the bad end of things. Like I said earlier, I want to see this show succeed and grow and be here forever, but I got to be truthful here. The promoter’s decision to combine the Christmas in July Show and this Hot Sauce Show was a huge mistake. Sure there were crowds and bigger numbers than last year, but it was the wrong crowd. People buying what the X-Mas Show was selling wanted little of what the NOLA Hot Sauce & Gourmet Show had to offer. If they had teamed up with a tattoo & piercing Show, then we might see a shared interest. A love of pain. Not some ornament or quilt designs.

The vendors suffered from a lack of attention with most people sampling only or avoiding booth after spicy booth altogether. One vendor told me, that they nearly cried when they counted their money they had made. It is sad, and I so feel for those companies that trekked the distance to invest with the growth of a show. Most were in shock by what had transpired, never thinking it could be so bad. Not all did bad, but the majority didn’t come close to breaking even. These young companies can’t afford to lose when they are looking to survive in this tough marketplace.

There was also no schedule of events anywhere, which Tracy says he blames himself for not arranging prior to the event. No one knew, except word of mouth that there was a frog leg Deathmatch or Lick-A-Thon nor any cooking event. There was no microphone like last year to announce anything to the crowd. EatMoreHeat was using a megaphone, and it ended being a huge tool for all the special on stage activities.

As a result of having no schedule, times were changed and a lot was thrown in disarray as a result. The biggest gaff was the frog legs cooking on a grill because the event center would not allow us to fry them in their kitchen. The grill was a bad idea and at the last minute they had to use a small household fryer to cook the legs. There was also a miscount on the exact number of frog legs we had which we were told were 300, but we barely had enough for 8 people. The event as I said was delayed for 45 minutes. There was also some issues with the Shrimp on Grits event as suddenly I found myself in the cleanup krewe. I needed to know my level of involvement was more than I had thought it was. I will take most of the blame because the cooking contest was my idea, but I didn’t know where the kitchen was and any of the cooking or serving ware, and neither did Johnny and Clement. Then they changed the time of the cook-off without telling me.

I wish we had a sit down beforehand to discuss everything, but arriving so late Friday, there just was no time to do that. Tracy had to set up his own booth, but was trying to get everything and everyone else situated first. It was more than he bargained for. The event needs a non-participant to run the show. Tracy did his job, and he got the show here, now we need someone to take the torch from him and run it the rest of the way. I know how many people love Tracy. He has a heart bigger than Louisiana, and everything he does is to make those around him at this show happy. It is unfortunate he feels the pain of his contemporaries, and you can read it all over his face. He carries the weight of everyone’s success on his shoulders, and it is too much for any man. He tries so hard, but he can’t control everything, and it eats him up inside.

I drew a rather bleak picture of the show, but there is a beacon here, and that beacon can not only save the show, but bring it to the level of the other big events by next year. There is hope, and I feel it in my bones, that we are looking at a big change that will rock the chile community. Once word gets out, people will be booking their booth by the end of the year. Mark my words, the Big Easy better watch out next year because we are going to bring down the house. Who Dat?

Enjoy the pictures and look out for some video footage of the event in the upcoming days. If you have anything to add, such as pics, please send them to me and I will add it to those above. Thanks.

31 thoughts on “NOLA: The Good, The Bad and the Ugly

  • July 19, 2011 at 8:41 am

    Everyone knows I love Tracy like a brother and I really wanted to see all you guys down there. I wanted more than anything for this show to be a slam dunk success for everyone involved (especially my hometown boys Wicked Cactus!) and I know it will be in future years. It killed me not to be able to attend this show so much that I intentionally avoided any talk of it or mention of it on Facebook or the blogs for fear of it making me depressed.

    Yet after reading your thoughts Buddah, I’m sort of glad I wasn’t able to make it this year. As a blogger with a “responsibility” to report on things down there, it seems like it would have been a headache to follow things, especially when it came to all the snafus. I would have rather relaxed on my birthday weekend, and I was able to do that by staying up here in St. Louis with my boys, my girlfriend, and had fun with my family during my dad’s 70th birthday party (my dad and my b-days are only two days apart).

  • July 19, 2011 at 11:48 am

    Awe, Schmoopie. No, You’re Schmoopie! :heart:

  • July 19, 2011 at 12:19 pm

    Huh, wha? Time for you stop sniffing the model airplane glue, FT! 😛

  • July 19, 2011 at 12:49 pm

    Take the pics of me down please.

  • July 19, 2011 at 3:26 pm

    Seinfeld reference

  • July 19, 2011 at 4:02 pm

    Thanks for stopping by Heather and for the compliment. It was great hanging with Rick and yourself.

  • July 19, 2011 at 6:45 pm

    Sorry about that. It is fixed.

  • July 20, 2011 at 9:26 am

    I caught the reference. Love Seinfeld!

  • July 20, 2011 at 10:20 am

    I knew it was a Seinfeld reference too. I was merely making fun of Thom’s bizarre time to interject such a quote from the show. 😉

  • July 20, 2011 at 10:47 am

    My photos are copywrited. You owe me royalties.

  • July 20, 2011 at 1:00 pm

    First Off Guys All I can say is I am sorry that this years show was not the best it should have been. I am striving to turn it all around and have already started working on things to make it into something to be proud of. I did how ever bite off more than I could chew this year and I will take all the blame for its short comings.

    However with that said not all was a wash several companies did have buyers come by their booths and make pretty descent orders and most all vendors will be getting some national recognition in some publications coming out real soon. I will post more on that as they unfold.

    I would also like to thank each everyone who participated in the show weather you were a vendor or a blogger. As sorry as this may sound I really appreciate each and everyone of you helping me make a dream come true. I really wish the show would have been a slam dunk this year.

    Thanks again

  • July 20, 2011 at 2:18 pm

    Tracy, you mean so much to so many people in this community. We are very grateful to everything you do. The show will grow and get better all thanks to the foundatyou have built. You have to be sorry to no one. As I told on the phone before the show, not everyone will be satisfied, but just do what you can do and hope for the best. Love ya man! :_toastbeer:

  • July 20, 2011 at 8:08 pm

    Hey man, knock it off. YOU pulled it all together. It doesn’t matter if it ran 100%, it RAN, and people had a good time. Stop accentuating the negative, as you should be accentuating the positives! I don’t know many people that can pull off a show, and you DID! Now, stop the explanations, everything works out for a reason. A bunch of people got together and had fun, isn’t that what it’s all about? Not JUST a bunch of people, but a family, that all works together as a team. NOW, do what I do, grab a beer, head outside, and reflect on this post. There are no naysayers in this industry, we are all family. I met cousins this past weekend I didn’t know I had, and they were made of the same awesome fabric that the rest of us are, so, as far as I’m concerned, that makes us a larger family with a direction. Stick with this attitude, and watch what happens.

    If anyone dare say different, I have 3 words, “Choot ’em, Lizabeth!”

  • July 20, 2011 at 8:12 pm

    Beautifully stated John. :_toastbeer:

  • July 20, 2011 at 8:58 pm

    We really enjoyed it. I was able to meet some people I have only known online before…including Tracy & Kristi, Vic Clinco, Flaming Joe & Red Hot Robin, Chris Bintz, among others….Yes, improvements are called for, but that’s with every show, every year! Plus, seeing great friends again like Big Buddah and JMac, Mr. Bourg, Uncle Cajohn, Cap’n’ Thom, etc…..just warms our hearts, so, what you did Tracy, in our minds, has no negative. :_bananadance:

  • July 21, 2011 at 12:44 pm

    I agree that we don’t dwell on negatives but learn from mistakes. Yes its great to party and meet friends but a few bad shows can spell the end of a business. For the chileheads that attend for fun this may not mean much. Because there will always be more new vendors to take the place of the ones who lose their business. The people who put on this show want this to suceed. And I want to see it suceed because the fiery foods show will be the main show until others get bigger. Its good that we are like family like john says. But also good that we put our greivances out in the open to make sure mistakes are not repeated. Would be nice one day to see nola as the top show and dave de witt having go lower his booth prices just to get people to come in. This can be a reality. Hey butch cajohn would never have an lsu liscense plate because LSU is known for having great college players that fail in the NFL!

  • July 21, 2011 at 1:51 pm

    Great attitude, Jim. We chileheads often forget that this is a business. It can be cool to hang out with Dick and Jane of XYZ company, but if they’re hemorrhaging money then XYZ company will go out of business. I totally agree with Dilley in that we ARE a big family, yet constructive criticism will help all of us in the long run.

    I’d like to see all trade shows do extremely well, to the point where they’re all very competitive and will “fight” to get vendors in with reduced booth costs, drayage, etc. I’ve told Dave this a long time ago, but he needs to get some contests, cooking demos and events going on during the FFS. If and when shows like ZestFest and NOLA reach attendance levels of 15,000, they’ll look far more enticing to attend than Albuquerque.

  • July 21, 2011 at 2:00 pm

    Yep I would much rather spend time in Texas or Nawlins than New,Mexico

  • July 21, 2011 at 2:56 pm

    I so Agree with Jim and Scott There has to be a point where these shows are about making money either immediately or in future sales. It is nice to hang out with friends and family but the bottom line is the ROI for all of us. That is why this past weekend grieves me so much that so many companies did nothing to help their ROI. For that reason I have really started trying to move this show forward and capitalizing on the lessons learned from this past show and working on the right players to make it a place where we can both have fun and increase our ROI.

    Now lets get down to talking sauce and food baby. how about a big bowl of that winning Chili everyone. Jump on the train and get yours today.

    Love each everyone of you guys.

    Tracy Carter
    JAC’s Tailgaters

  • July 21, 2011 at 7:05 pm

    I’m glad I don’t have to worry about the business aspect of it all, but hey, Johnny McLaughlin didn’t make a killing at the show, but spent his free time pounding the pavement and getting HBD into several stores in NO while he was there….didn’t have to take any product home….so, take notes and think outside the box if the show is slow, vendors!

  • July 22, 2011 at 2:44 pm

    Let us start again. This website will not tolerate personal attacks unless it is considered friendly smack talk. I live by the motto, “treat people like you want to be treated.” Before you hit the “Say it” button think about what you said first.

    Sorry for having to play Big Brother. I don’t want to, and frankly I am tired of it.

  • July 23, 2011 at 4:49 pm

    I’ve missed something here!

  • July 23, 2011 at 4:51 pm

    There is always drama somewhere Hudd. So how are you my friend?

  • July 23, 2011 at 5:21 pm

    doing otay. my temporary job turned into a permanent job. Not getting rich but steady work again.

  • July 23, 2011 at 5:23 pm

    Well congrats at any rate. If it helps pay the bills, that is all that matters until the next opportunity comes a calling.

  • July 28, 2011 at 9:00 pm

    Although my comments from the other day have been deleted I offer my public apology to those that were offended especially Thomas. I am not perfect by any means and really should take more time to think before I open my mouth especially when passing judgement on others. Thanks Al for deleting them.

  • July 29, 2011 at 1:10 pm

    worked 5 weeks as a temp and now I’ve started my 4th week as a permenant employee. 3rd shift stocking shelves at a new Wal Mart. My goal is to end up in their pharmacy.

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