Every year, thousands of chili-heads descend on the Sandia Resort and Casino Events Center in Albuquerque, New Mexico for the event to end all events. On March 2-4, the 19th Annual Fiery Foods and Barbeque Show occurred and I was there to capture it in all its endorphin rush inducing action.
This year’s event brought in over 20,000 visitors, and 600 vendors from all across the world, something I was not counting on. Friday was easy because 80% of the day was exclusively for the vendors and the press, but Saturday and Sunday were intense. It was so packed that walking down one isle, from beginning to end (a distance around 170 feet), took about 5 minutes.
I arrived at Albuquerque International Sunport airport at 11AM and instantly knew that I was in the land of chili peppers. Within the airport were three New Mexico style restaurants; all of them touting their hot chilies. Once I got to my hotel room, I decided to talk a walk down to the local McDonalds. I looked at their menu and was astonished at what I saw. Listed amongst their usual items was a “Green Chili Double Cheese Burger” for only $1!
For a huge fast food restaurant to list a pepper product on their menu is astounding to say the least. I immediately bought two, took off the top of the bun. Staring back at me was a large pile of New Mexican style, fire roasted chili peppers. The burger wasn’t bad and the chilies gave it a nice tiny kick. I would rate it a 0.32 on my heat scale, but hey, it’s a start.
Friday’s event opened at 9AM and was only open to the members of the press. That means from 9AM to 4 PM, at which point the doors open to the public, there were only around 400 people. I walked in at 9:00 AM and by 9:30 AM I already had an endorphin rush. This was definitely a sign of things to come.
My first stop off was at Defcon’s booth. It was here that I got to try his newest batch of Defcon Condition ZERO extract. This time around (this is his fourth version) he crammed about 25 Habaneros worth of capsaicin into a small jar, making it 1.5 times hotter than his previous batch. I also got to try his latest edition of Defcon Condition 1 wing sauce. It is much hotter than his previous version and with a special little feature…a heat delay. The true heat of the sauce makes it presence known after about a minute and a half, and had me sucking a lot of air to cool the raging fire that had now enveloped my mouth.
Next up was Blair’s Sauce and Snacks where I got to interview the man himself. Below is the interview;
What’s the lowdown with “Blair’s Labs” and what can we expect?
Nothing short of a miracle. Seriously. It’s a breakthrough I think of an epic proportions. It’s a discovery I made by accident and there’s nothing out there like it. I think I’ve discovered something that will totally revolutionize the skin care industry.
So it’s a skin care product?
Anti-aging, anti-wrinkle, face, hand, and other parts of your body product.
Any plans for a Naga based sauce?
e.html”>best fish for backyard aquaponicsnow but we’re looking into it. …the thing that I found is that, and I looked into it probably about a year ago and such, is that we need to have enough supply. The supply wasn’t there enough for what we needed to go ahead and pursue it. But in the future, sure.
What sauces outside of your own do you use?
[long pause]You know, I’m a creature of habit. I really do use Blair’s Original Death Sauce, Jalapeno Death Sauce. I have a bottle of Tabasco at my house.
Ugh, flavored vinager.
[Laughs] You can’t knock them though, they’ve been around forever. Umm, and then some odd international products, ya know, some stuff from Asia that I like a lot. I love the unique flavor that Asian chilies have.
When you started out back in 1989, did you expect the fiery foods industry to become the monster that it is today?
I didn’t even think about it. I just wanted to make a hot sauce and add a few hundred dollars. I never had a plan, which is probably better. I did and I still do what I love, so, I never think about trends or growth or any of the things that I probably should think about in a corporate world. But I am not Mr. Corporate by any means so I was just doing what I love and I still am. To try to think I was getting into this industry and you know, that would be all bullshit. That wasn’t what I was doing.
Well, that kind of rules out one of my next questions which was, “Where do you see the industry going in the next five years”?
It doesn’t really rule it out because I can just tell you, every single day at our office there are literally hundreds, whether it be emails, phone calls, letters, whatever. “How do I get involved”, “How do I get it”. It’s growing exponentially. There’s no way to define it. People from all walks of life all parts of the planet. When I stop getting the phone calls I just start to savor the time. And that’s 17 years after I started, and that’s what I know. I think it’s a fantastic, amazing thing that people are doing. Why not? It makes you feel alive and you have a good time.
Has anyone actually tried your 16 Million Reserve that you know of?
How’d that work out for you?
I guess I could equate it to getting my tongue pierced, but I’ve never gotten my tongue pierced. It feels like you stick it out then someone hammers something through it. It hurts. It hurts for a long time. I had a mark, I mean, it’s the real deal.
And lastly, can you recall the first pepper you ever ate?
Probably a Cayenne chili when I was like 7 or 8, I remember burning my mouth. I didn’t think I knew that was going to be my future. Definitely under 10. Maybe they put something in my bottle, I don’t know [laughs]. It just seemed kinda fun. Obviously back then I didn’t have any clue.
It was really great to meet one the greats of the business and I count myself lucky that I got to interview him. Be sure to check back here tomorrow for the second part of this article. It will include more vendor pictures, a look at the first two Naga based sauces of the industry, and a meeting between Mullet-Man and Pepperman!