The Chilli Festival 2012 at the Mansion House Report

by David Kelly on June 25, 2012 · 0 comments

in General Information

Last Sunday (17th June) saw the Father’s Day Chilli Fiesta held at The Mansion House in the beautiful grounds of Old Warden Park, near Biggleswade in Bedfordshire. The event, organised by Joanna & Shawn Plumb of Edible Ornamentals and The Mansion House team, was the second Father’s Day Chilli Fiesta and followed on from the success of its inaugural event last year.

Being unable to attend last year’s event I had been looking forward to attending the event as the weeks drew close. Unfortunately when the weather changed from sunshine to torrential rains at the beginning of the week then gale force winds towards the end of the week, I had visions of wandering around the grounds ‘Glastonbury style’ with broken stalls and flying marquees. Thankfully however the weather took a turn for the better and Sunday turned out to be a warm bright day as I set off for the event.

Around 70 exhibitors attended the event with many of the regular chilli festival exhibitors in attendance such as Fire Foods, Hot Headz (who thankfully still managed to get to the event after having a blowout on the way to it), Cambridge Chilli Farm and Bim’s Kitchen, as well as other local specialists and some newcomers to the festival scene.

Cambridge Chilli FarmI’d seen Tim from Cambridge Chilli Farm tweeting earlier in the week that he would have his newly launched Trinidad Scorpion sauce for sale at the event, so I made a visit to his stall my first port of call for the day. Having arrived not long after the event opened things were still quite serene so I was able to spend some time chatting to him. Needless to say when sampling the sauce it delivered a great kick. Many others must have had similar interest in trying his latest creation too, as crowds soon began to gather around his stall and sample it.

A steady stream of cars could now be seen coming up the long driveway into the grounds and the atmosphere began to buzz in the grounds as the crowds of visitors began to wander amongst the stalls.
Several of the stalls catered for chill growers with good varieties of chilli plants being available for purchase. Sean Plumb was in demand at the buys Edible Ornamental stall, selling the copious selection of plants grown in their poly-tunnels as well as answering questions and given sageful advice to buyers. For those with green fingers who wanted to be catered for, demonstrations and Gardeners Question Time sessions were available at the Gardening Academy area.

Many of the stall were in the open grounds, however under the cover of a marquee other exhibitors were located. Just inside the entrance was the Grim Reaper Foods stall run by Russell Williams and his wife Sharon. Although very well known in chilli circles for his great products, this was actually Russell’s first time as an exhibitor, something that no one would’ve thought from the quality and attention to detail they’d put into creating the stall. It certainly was in line with Grim Reaper Food brand imaging with its skull tasting dispensers and definitely was the star of the show for its merchandising appearance.

Cookery Demo KitchenAlso located inside the marquee was the Chilli Kitchen were cookery demonstrations were frequently taking place. Award winning Master Chef of Great Britain Grant Hawthorne was the celebrity guest giving demonstrations and offering the public to sample his culinary chilli dishes. Handily for those who found them too hot for their tastes, the festival bar was co-located beside the Chilli Kitchen.

As I wandered around the grounds it was clear from the crowds that many families had been attracted to event. Chilli-head Fathers weren’t the only ones being catered for, with a wide range of attractions for children’s entertainment such as trampolines and bouncy castles.

Lunchtime approached so I wandered around to the main stage where the ubiquitous chilli eating competition was about to take place. The 9 victims, sorry contestants, made their way onto the stage and a large crowd of spectators and supporters gathered to watch the contestants battle with the mighty capsaicin.

Chilli Eating CompetitionA variety of increasingly hot chillies grown by Edible Ornamentals were given to the contestants and within about 15 minutes the competition had been whittled down to 3 die- hards who seemed to be relishing the challenge. Unfortunately given the time of year in the chilli growing season, Jo from Edible Ornamentals didn’t have any fresh superhot chillies to give to the contestants so instead the ante was upped to consuming a spoonful of Mad Dog 44 Magnum, a 4 Million Scoville oleoresin. Surprisingly to those watching this didn’t have the instant effect of eliminating competitors, so Jo resorted to having the 3 finalists consume more chillies and spoonfuls of the oleoresin until eventually a winner was able to be declared.

I continued to wander around the grounds sampling the delights and, rather unfortunately for my wallet, purchasing bottle and jars of chilli products. Our very own Hot Juan had recently reviewed Germano‘s Chilli Sauce In Olive Oil and I was pleased to find that Marsh Trading, the official importer for this product had a small stall where I was able to sample this and some of their other imported sauces. As Hot Juan said in his review, the flavours in this product are amazing and consequently the hole in my wallet continued to grow as I purchased a jar of this and some of the Byron Bay sauces (from Australia) that they had available.

All in all there was a good family friendly atmosphere at the festival which seemed to be drawing good crowds. It was proving popular with the visitors and looked to be successful for exhibitors alike.

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