You ever feel like you were just part of something very special? Something so big, that you feel like you were more of a spectator than an actual participant? This was the case for one of the best events I have ever attended in this community, and I have been to many over the last 7 years. Was it the biggest crowd I have ever witnessed? No, the Fiery Food Show brings in more over a longer time period. Was it the biggest money spending event from a vendors’ standpoint? Probably not, but this is a 2 year old infant of a show that is only going to grow and grow if Steve Seabury and his partners keep up this standard. Mr. Seabury has not only paved a new path for where to take a show, but he is driving a tank and firing it through the normalcy that we are all used to. Free tattoos and haircuts in the VIP area? Hey this is NY, you better get used to going big because Steve only promises more amazing things at next years Expo.
Steve Seabury of High River Sauces deserves much kudos and accolades for the 2 years of mouth dropping crowds. The big difference between last year and this year is that he added a stage and presence along with it. He put the Expo on a pedestal and added a spotlight. Being a participant the last 2 years with the Fiery Pizza Challenge with Volcanic Peppers and Grimaldi’s Pizzeria, there was a HUGE difference in how it was packaged to the throng of onlookers. Having a stage elevated us and having the microphone made us the center of attention. Two things we did not have last year. Then when you add in other shows main fiery contests like the Defcon Sauces’ Deathmatch and Intensity Academy’s Lollipop Lick-a-Thon, you are calling out those events to do it better. The gauntlet has been dropped ladies and gentlemen.
No one does VIP areas like the NYC Hot Sauce Expo. As I pointed out above there were free Tattoos, and we are not talking about the kids wet and stick version. A professional tattooist was hired to add flames, peppers or anything that might be hot sauce related to your skin. That was Day 1. Day 2, they hired a hair stylist to not only give you a professional touch-up, but that old skool barber warm towel as well. The rest of the VIP area was filled with all kinds of brand name alcohol, some gourmet snackage and a place to get away from the hustle and bustle of the show. Chad Lowcock of Race City Sauce Works was serving up some tastings of his award winning gourmet dark and white chocolate elixirs. There was also Stephen “The Murph” Murphy helping people get acquainted with his awesome Bloody Mary mixes. Seabury took care of his vendors, the media, sponsors and even us bloggers.
Another pleasant thing that was an improvement over last year was that this time the Expo was indoors. The morning chill and wind from last year’s event is happily in the rear view mirror. Although the new event at the Penn Pavilion had some extra warm spots, it was so much better when you do not have to combat the elements. Besides, the Pavilion is one and done, as Steve is moving the Expo once again, and he promised it would be a much bigger and better location. If Steve says it, then you can bank on it. His promises have more than delivered. I almost think that Steve downplays it a bit, so your expectations are kept in check, and there is a wow factor as a result. Most of the vendors I spoke to sang his praise for the amazing turnout.
Speaking of the vendors, there were 45 great ones at the Expo. It is very hard to get East, West, North and South areas of the United States together for a spicy event. They were all represented at the Expo. Some of my all time favorites were there, and newbies such as our friends from Lucky Dog, Hellfire and Voodoo Chiles all were making their debut at the event. Some of the most inspired flavor creations this reviewer/chilehead has ever tasted in all my years were under 1 roof. So many people come to these events asking for the hottest sauce or product. “What is the hottest thing ya got?” they say. It is the wrong question, but they want to get their burn on, so they have blinders on. The question should be, “what is your most favorable product?” This will allow the vendor to put amazing in your mouth before the heat effects your taste buds and takes away from the flavor explosion. I only wish I could take people by the hand, booth by booth and show them how to experience a fiery food show. Not everyone has 2 days to experience a show like me though, so these people want to skip over the niceties and get right to the fire. There were so many quality spicy product makers on display at the Expo it would be hard to decide what not to get.
There were some great new products, and as always Dragon Blood Elixir came with new seasonal hot sauces, and I was wowed by a few of them including a Tamari sauce that I bought for my Mom, a smooth wasabi hot sauce and 2 that Jim Duffy had told me about for a while – a maple bacon hot sauce and a balsamic garlic hot sauce which were really good. Deception Salsa, one of my favorite salsa makers came out with 2 new green verde salsas that were so good, I did not get them before they sold out. I also loved Heartbreaking Dawns new Fervor. It might be my new favorite offering by creator Johnny McLaughlin. So much flavor. One of my surprise favorites came from the Puckerbutt Pepper Company with a Lemon Pepper Jelly that was one of the best I have ever tasted. I do not recall ever having a lemon one I ever liked this much before. I too bought a jar for my Mom, and has all ready praised it. She was well taken care of with a few spicy products. Chilehead Moms are great, right? I also enjoyed Voodoo Chiles new Peppadew product line which included two tasty hot sauces, a mango salsa and one really nice mustard. I am a mustard snob, but this was right on the money on the type of mustard I love on a soft warm pretzel. Which, by the way they had at the show. Including a calzone pretzel which I had and loved and a bacon-wrapped one which I was told was really good. Another new vendor I rather enjoyed was Mr. Saucy with some very good tasty offerings.
Cully’s Chilli Sauces from New Zealand was there as a spectator, but was trading his sauces for those at the show. Shellie Mierwald from Sweet Heat Gourmet shared his sauces with me, and I was very impressed with how silky smooth and tasty they were. By the way, I was quite impressed with Sweet Gourmet too including their pineapple hot sauce. Shellie was nice enough to make a special lower carb Korean Bulgogi sauce just for me. Thank you so very much Shellie! Besides those gifts, NW Elixir’s Andrew Garrett hooked me up with a spicy pickled veggies in a big Mason jar and I got a jar of homemade hot sauce from last year’s Fiery Pizza Challenge Champion, John Krasnow. I look forward to try what he made. Thanks everyone!
I wish I could name all the companies and their wonderful products, but I could go all night long in my praise. Suffice it to say, if you were not at this special event, you missed out on the show of the year, and it is only March. I only hope and wish that all of the events could be this spectacular. I know the other shows scheduled this year have their own niche and do a fantastic job, and are wonderful events to attend. Yet, the bar has just been raised by Mr. Seabury.
Before I close out my wrap-up, I want to touch on the scheduled events and Guinness record. Starting with the Pizza Challenge we did. A big congrats to our new champion Jeffrey Tamaru. I am very happy with how it turned out, but would love input on if people who watched it or participated in it would like to see any changes. That aside, the crowds watching all the events were deeply invested in them. They were screaming and rooting on the contestants of all the challenges. The Lick-a-thon winner, Dan Lowenstein of Red Hawk Pepper Products was coaxed into doing the event by yours truly. He had asked me to taste his ultra-hot pepper powder appropriately called Pain, and I told him I would if he entered the lollipop contest. Regretfully doing so, he sucked the life out of his sweet pain on a stick. He suffered for it later, but the award was well worth it in the end.
The Guinness Book of World Records was at hand, but despite the gallant efforts of Steve Seabury, Ed Currie of Puckerbutt, Chip Hearn of Peppers who stirred up the crowd by throwing out free t-shirts, the event was a bit of a let down. From a Chilehead perspective Guinness let the entire community down with their restrictive record of only 3 peppers. Each contestant had to swallow 3 Smokin’ Ed’s Carolina Reaper chile peppers in the least amount of time, and stay on stage an additional 1 minute without puking. 2 of the contestants took 1 chew each at the most and vanquished the world’s hottest pepper in 12+ seconds. The difference was milliseconds in deciding who got the record, which went to Russel Todd. Congrats Russel. Unfortunately, not to demean his gulping efforts, the heat of the pepper was a non-factor. Why would anyone create a record for the world’s hottest chile pepper and not allow the heat to play into the results?
Steve “The Machine” Smallwood was flown into the Expo by Chip, and barely got his bucks worth from said event unless Steve swallowed each pepper without chewing and got the record. Anyone who knows The Machine, knows the gift he has in taking on heat and the most straight-faced of ways. He came into the event believing the contest would be eating the most Carolina Reapers in a minute much like he did before at Peppers at the Beach in 2012 with Ghost and Trinidad Scorpion peppers. I am sure he was very disappointed even though he might tell you otherwise. A free trip to NYC is reward enough, and he is truly grateful before believed in him enough for this trip to happen. Unfortunately his day, this day, was not meant to be. Ed Currie did all he could do, but it was in the hands of Guinness Book of World Records. Steve Seabury and Ed Currie take notice of what I am about to say. From this day forward, the NYC Hot Sauce Expo will be the place where we establish a new Chilehead standard. The place where we make our own records will be the home of the new Chile Pepper Wall of Fame. Let us create a pepper eating challenge worthy of this community and let all the others across the world know it. F-Guinness and their lofty standards. F-them and their money hungry ways to establish what is a world’s record and what is not. They know nothing about who we are and what we do. They know nothing of hot, spicy and what a chile pepper even is. F-them right back to the hole they came from. Today we take back history and we start a new record standard. Next year, at the 2015 NYC Hot Sauce Expo we make history! You want a record worth talking about? This chilehead community deserves it, and by God bearing witness we shall have it!!! Steve, Ed, let us do this thing the right way, our way!!!
I love having an event a short drive where I grew up, but there was an honest fear it would not work in NYC. I so wanted this show to succeed, but I do not fear it ever falling short again because we have the right guy in Steve Seabury. All my doubts are gone, and replaced with anxiousness to come back to see what he will do next year. For all the glory that you might find at the Fiery Food & BBQ Show in Albuquerque, New Mexico, well you might find it a whole lot cheaper if you are in NYC. Only problem is, if you did not get in on the ground floor, you might never get in now. Steve’s plans are to keep the vendors limited to where it is at presently, so they have the best chance to make money. The more vendors there are, the more sales they will have to split between them. For the chilehead, there are enough vendors, and some of the best in the world, to satisfy your every need.
Well that about does it for my recap. A big thanks to Steve for allowing me to be a part of his world. I hope one day you will bring your talents to Northern Virginia-DC metro area for a show, and we can take one of the fastest growing and healthiest markets in the country and introduce them to our love of spicy food. It is time to bring the Expo on the road much like you do with your heavy metal tours. Now that is a HOT idea!