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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Bath Good Food Awards 2012We are great fans of The Wiltshire Chilli Farm, Jamie has produced some excellent products.  So if you have tried or purchased his Habanero Gold, Cranberry Kick or Mild & Hot Chilli Jam’s then it is time to vote in the Bath Good Food Awards.

All you have to do is enter your details and who you would like to nominate “The Wiltshire Chilli Farm” and then tick the Best Preserves button and submit your entry. Click here to vote NOW.

The closing date for nominations is the 30th June 2012.

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Here in the UK we have a small but rapidly growing BBQ competition circuit. There are several grilling competitions held each year including The Field to Fork Festival and the Ready Steady Q series of events but what I’m going to talk about are the Low and Slow Pit Master style BBQ competitions.

Typically held over 2 days, cooking 4 categories of chicken, ribs, pork and brisket, this is a style of competition influenced massively by the hugely popular BBQ circuits in the US. If you want to take part in this type of completion in the UK there is the Grillstock festival in Bristol or there are a series of competitions sanctioned by the International BBQ Network across the Summer.

Grillstock is held in July and is a small music festival combined with a BBQ/outdoor living tradeshow and BBQ competition. Categories are the expected main 4 and there are further rounds throughout the day. In the past judging has not been blind and there has been no site access overnight for cooking. This year there is overnight access but it is unclear exactly how judging will work as far as I can see.

The International BBQ Network (IBQN)IBQN offer several competitions per year, usually as part of larger events with wider scope. For example there will be an IBQN competition at Cartmel Racecourse this year as part of their racing weekend schedule in July. IBQN competitions, are a fixed format, 4 main categories (plus optional sides, dessert and sauce), blind judging and fixed turn in times. Judges are trained and certified and there is a guaranteed ratio of judges to entrants. These events are run very much as US events would be.

My favourite competition of the year is IBQN’s Mayhem in May. It’s the first competition in the British season and is held behind closed doors. It’s a very laid back affair with most teams arriving on Friday night for a pre-competition party. What I love about this event is it’s one for the people who love to cook, without the ebb and flow of Joe public visiting the pitches there’s plenty of time to bounce ideas around with other pit masters and also for those of us with experience to give the new teams some serious one-on-one time and help them get up to speed with all aspects of the competition. Experienced competitors will typically make themselves available to teach trimming, prep, and cooking at MiM. It’s one of the best weekends of the year for me!

A list of low n slow BBQ competitions happening in 2012 can be found below:

  • 26/27 May – IBQN Mayhem in May, Tongham, Surrey.
  • 23 June – IBQN European Championships @ The Big BBQ, Canvey Island Essex
  • 30 June / 1st July – Grillstock, Bristol
  • 7/8 July – IBQN Pit Masters Accumulator @ Paddle Round the Pier, Brighton
  • 21-14 – IBQN Pit Masters National Final @ Cartmel Race Weekend, The Lake District

For info on IBQN events, please see http://www.ibqn.com
For info on Grillstock, please see http://www.grillstock.co.uk

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Are you looking for a Chilli Festival for the weekend of 13th & 14th July 2012 to sell your chilli products, this this is the second year of the Birmingham Chilli Festival…
Birmingham Chilli Festival
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