Now in it’s 3rd year the Great Dorset Chilli Festival has certainly warranted it’s ‘Great’ prefix. Over the weekend of the 3rd & 4th of August saw over 10,000 visitors come flooding through the gate to sample some of the very best Chilli products the UK has to offer, from the usual chilli sauces, plants to chilli chocolate and even battered Jalapenos, there was no shortage of ways to spend your money.
Set within the grounds of St Giles House, in Wimborne St Giles this event has a stunning setting, you couldn’t ask for a better backdrop.
I was only able to attend this years event on the Sunday and what a day it was! People started to queue at the ticket gates before the event opened and then they flooded in, and kept coming. This is something quite unprecedented for a festival which is situated with no passing traffic. The effort put into the advertising and promotion had really worked.
This event really did have a bit of everything, with a demonstration tent packed for Chilli talks and demonstrations. Visitors could enjoy the dishes prepared by local chefs Mark Hartstone of La Fosse Restaurant in Cranborne, Mat Follas of The Wild Garlic Restaurant in Iwerne Minster, Luke Stuart of White Pepper Cookery School, Julia Cotton of Julia’s Kitchen Cookery School.
Matt Simpson of Simpson’s Seeds entertained visitors with his knowledge of Chilli folklore and Joy Michaud of Sea Spring Seeds in West Bexington spoke about the famous Dorset Naga Chilli, which was once crowned the World’s Hottest Chilli. Joy also displayed over 30 varieties of prime specimen chilli plants which were recently exhibited at Hampton Court Flower Show where she won a Bronze Flora award.
The food catering was spot on with something for everyone, including the aforementioned battered Jalapenos, and Chilli burgers and bangers cooked by Cliff and Hayley aka The Devon ChilliMan on their first outing in the new ‘Chillified’ trailer.
In addition to the Chilli talks, the UK Chilli Cook-Off Association were there on the Sunday with 6 teams of amateur chefs all trying to cook the best Chilli they could in the allotted 4 hours. Spoons were sold to visitors who could then go and sample each of the teams Chillies, with all money raised going to the charity CLIC Sargent Childrens Cancer Charity.
I was lucky enough to be on the Judging panel and the eventual winning team ‘Silly with Chilli’ won themselves £250 and a place in the grand final at Fiery Foods in Brighton in September where the eventual winner will go to Las Vegas to represent the UK and be in with a chance of winning £25,000.
There was also a Chilli Condiment Competition which the vendors could enter their products into, which the public could taste blind and vote on during each day, the results were as follows:
Mild – Saucy Sauce No4 from Simpsons Seeds
Medium – Sweet Chilli Sauce with Garlic from
The Isle of Wight Garlic Farm
Hot – Red Mosquito from The Upton Cheyney Chilli Company
Garlic Jam with Red Chilli from The Isle of Wight Garlic Farm
Chilli Chutney & Relish:
Chilli Pickle from Sushil’s Chutney & Pickle
In addition to this there was a Chilli Plant competition sponsored by Simpsons Seeds. Class One was for a specific variety, the Nu Mex Twilight which was won by Tim Rumball and Class Two was open to any variety which was won by Kris Collins.
And what better way to finish off each day of a Chilli Festival, than with the inaugural Chilli Eating Competition, run by The Clifton Chilli Club and compared by our very own Darth Naga. This drew in a huge crowd each afternoon to watch the contestants eat their way through 10 rounds of increasingly hot chillies! The winners were James Harrold (Saturday) and Jake Shergold (Sunday)
And for those who want to see the Clifton Chilli Club videos of the Chilli Competition eating each day, see below;
The Saturday Competition:
The Sunday Competition:
As a regular Chilli Festival attendee I have to say that Miles and the team have this event just right, it has evolved over the last three years into a very popular and successful event and I look forward to next year.
Here is Miles take on the Festival.
“As a dedicated chilli festival with 75 different stands, there’s a limit to how big the event can become
before we become just another food festival, which is not our intention. Blessed with good weather,
we had an unprecedented number of visitors and regrettably queues for the car park built up on
Sunday. But the response to the festival was fantastic, with the main comment being about the
friendly and relaxed atmosphere. “
Miles Halton, Festival Director.
So there you have it, if you are in any doubt about attending this event next year then don’t be, just come along.