Old favorites captured their share of Golden Chiles in Irving, Texas, Friday evening, Jan. 25, but the Best of Show Award went to a newcomer to the competition, as did a number of other ribbons and trophies in the prestigious nationwide hot, zesty and fiery food contest.
Awards were presented as part of the Fiery Food Challenge held in conjunction with Zest Fest 2013, which runs through Sunday at the Irving Convention Center.
Deano's Jalapenos White Cheddar Bacon Bits, a just-introduced "shake-on" spice product making its debut at this year's show, captured the top award for Best Overall Product: Best of the Best. Vermont resident Doehne Duckworth, owner of The Cactus Cafe in Stowe, Vermont, noted he has only attended the Zest Fest one time before. He is no novice at winning awards, however, having taken home Scovie awards for his Jalapeno Chips in 2010.
Additional Titles Duckworth carries away from the competition this year include the "Best Snack" trophy, and a first place in the Consumer Ready Salty Snack category. He said that production of these snack treats is still somewhat of a "sideline" business for him, begun following the popularity of jalapeno-flavored potato chips. He just "leaves out the potatoes," and the result is a "slightly addictive" treat, which can be eaten alone, or enjoyed as a topping or addition to more traditional recipes.
Additional winners in multiple categories included The Karma Sauce Company of Pittsford, N.Y., run by a brother/sister-in-law team, each of whom have separate full-time jobs in other fields. Kim Moriarty and Gene Olczak explained that they entered products in the competition last year and won two Golden Chiles.
This year, they entered a number of products produced by their two-year-old company, came to the show, and will go home laden with awards for their mild hot sauce, hot hot sauce, habanero hot sauce, chipotle hot sauce, and both Asian-style and Caribbean-style hot sauces, among other awards. Inspiration for the company name, by the way, is a cute little dog!
Overall Categories in the competition were: Barbecue Sauce, with the "Best of Category" prize awarded to Hoboken Eddie's; Best Condiment, won by Hound Comics for their Brimstone Sweet Treat Heat; Best Hot Sauce, a Lava Chocolate Lightning by Volcanic Peppers, and Best Salsa, captured by Gunther's Gourmet for Jalapeno Salsa Fresca.
The award for Best Zesty Sweet went to Letterman Enterprises INC for a Spice Cream Rolling Berry BlastOff; Best Beverage was judged to be 13th Moon Spicy Mayan Drinking Chocolate by Race City Sauce Works; and Best Cook-Off was Flaming Chicken Extra Hot Wing Sauce submitted by Hot Sauce Depot.
A VIP judging team of approximately 50 chefs, foodies and spice enthusiasts met for three days last week to sniff, taste, examine and savor a total of 714 different samples entered in the competition. They ranged from from dry rub spices to flavored chocolates, from dipping sauces to fragrant spreads, and from liquid treats to packaging labels.
Not every judge was asked to sample every product; rather, it was a double blind test and officials sought to assure that it was as fair and equitable as possible, with all products being rated by the same number of judges. A core group of judges returns year after year to sample and rate the offerings; and the team grows as the number of submitted products increases.
Sponsored originally by Chile Pepper Magazine, the competition is now privately organized by Spicy Food Productions in conjunction with Zest Fest, and the attractive golden chile encased in a lucite trophy is a highly sought award for the hot and spicy food industry. It joins the Scovie Award Banner as one of two achievements recognized in the field. Winners proudly display their trophies and ribbons for the duration of the three-day exhibition.