Mayhaps nothing in the culinary world so readily bonds people who dine together than a love of spicy food. We’ve lost count of the number of times we’ve egged each other on over bowls of obscenely hot curry and mouth-scarring Buffalo wings. Yes, fans of the hottest dishes seem to take on membership into a special club, one where hotter is better and food just isn’t the same when peppers aren’t involved — oh, and where bland dishes are absolutely for sissies. This weekend that unspoken club is having a meeting, so mark the calendar and get ready to breathe fire: the NYC Hot Sauce Expo takes over Penn Plaza Pavillion all weekend long.
We tracked down the original spice-fiend himself, Mr. Steve Seabury, who owns High River Sauces and co-produces the expo, to see what can be expected of the 2nd annual celebration of all things capsaicin. Right off the bat, we knew this guy was legit. “I live and breath spicy food every day,” Steve says. “I even put hot sauce on my hot sauce.”
The two-day event, which kicks-off today, promises to be packed with 45 vendors and five spicy food eating contests. Contenders will throw each other through a fiery ringer with everything from the Carolina Reaper Eating Challenge (for the Guinness Book of Records) to the Bloody Mary Mix-Down. The biggest ticket item on the list? The Screaming Mimi Awards, given out to the best sauces in foreboding categories like XXX Hot Sauce. “It’s an all-star line up of events,” Steve says. “It’s going to be so much fun.”
Steve got the idea for the expo while traveling around the country doing hot sauce shows for High River Sauces. (Yep, hot sauces tour like rock stars.) “I said to myself why isn’t there a show in NYC?” Steve says. “Jimmy [the expo’s co-producer] and I spoke about working together to put together a hot sauce expo to make NYC a better place for us chili heads. We worked it out and now we are in our second year and very excited.”
So, what goes into making an amazing hot sauce? “Passion for the pepper is the key element for making an amazing hot sauce,” Steve says. “There were a bunch of creative sauces at the [last] expo. All of the vendors are award-winning sauce makers.” Yessir, what it all comes down to is a love for the humble fruit. “I want people to come and celebrate the pepper with us,” Steve says, adding that he’s most excited this year about “all of the challenges, the one-on-one time with the sauce makers and the endorphin rush that will ensue. It will truly be a weekend that will be remembered for a very long time.” We’re sure our taste buds won’t forget anytime soon either.
General admission tickets to the event are $10 in advance and $12 at the door. Check out the expo’s site for more info.