At the 32nd annual National Fiery Foods & Barbecue Show, more than 750 vendors gather for three days in the name of cuisine that makes your mouth burn. There are about 1,000 food products to try, from hot sauce to chocolate. Also on hand: barbecue supplies, cookbooks, and other items related to preparing and eating fare that comes with a rating on the Scoville scale, which ranks the heat of chili peppers and other spicy foods.
Fiery Foods show founder Dave DeWitt says that the event is for industry professionals, as well as the general public. As far as he knows, it is the largest display of hot foods anywhere in the world, so it’s the place to be for chefs, BBQ aficionados, and heat-seekers who get a thrill out of tasting new products and trying sauces from small, independent companies. This year’s vendors include Angry Goat Pepper Co., Evil Cowboy Hot Sauce, Black Tie Caramel, Lucky Dog Hot Sauce, and What the Fudge.
Among the highlights is the opportunity to try Scovie Award-winners, recognized as the top fiery food products in the world. The latest winners include Wild West Pickles’ The Outlaw-Green Chile Pickles, Mountain Man Gourmet’s New Mexico Christmas Soup Mix, and Fabalish’s Vegan Tzatziki Aquafaba Sauce. And between 12:30 and 4:30 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 29, attendees can watch professional chefs compete in the 505 Food Fights, a cooking contest in the tradition of the Food Network’s Chopped, which raises money for The Kitchen Kids, a local nonprofit organization.
When DeWitt first started the show, spicy foods weren’t as common as they are now, he says. But today, they’re mainstream. “Every kind of product that you can imagine — from potato chips to jerky — all have a spicy element to them now,” he says. “It’s not just a bunch of aberrant chile-heads sitting over in a corner, cramming themselves full of spicy foods.”
He says you don’t have to have a high tolerance for heat to enjoy the Fiery Foods show. Although some people go out of their way to challenge themselves by eating hot sauce made with ghost peppers (over 1 million Scoville heat units, or SHUs), he himself prefers flavor to fire. He’ll choose red chile over green, though he likes them both, and he tops out at medium-hot (about 1,000 SHUs). The ability to eat spicy foods is genetic and depends on how many capsaicin receptors you have, he notes.
“People think that because I’m one of the producers of this show, that I can take it spicier and hotter than anybody, but that’s not true,” he says.