Chilli is red hot in Canberra: a new store with everything for the chilli connoisseur is about to open and the ACT’s first chilli champion will soon contest the Australian Chilli Championships.
Rob ‘the Dragon’ Morris was crowned Canberra’s chilli champion on 10 April when he survived a contest of fire-breathing proportions against two worthy combatants who ate raw chillies, some sprayed with Satan’s Spit chilli extract until they could no longer stand the heat.
Trish Bissett, Travis Agerbeek and Rob Morris qualified after winning a chilli-tasting event at Fraser Grocer in March.
That event couldn’t determine Canberra’s chilli champion, so Trish, Travis and Rob returned for a last-person standing challenge in April where the trio tried to keep pace with their craving for capsaicin in a battle of guts over glory.
As all three wiped beads of sweat from their brows, Fraser Grocer owner Eric Bailey upped each challenge until Travis tapped out, followed by Trish when asked to spray two blasts of chilli extract in her mouth.
This left Rob a relieved winner, while Travis and Trish took relief from glasses of milk which were only allowed after exclusion from the challenge.
“I was asked by the guys behind the Australian championships to be brutal from the beginning of this challenge,” Eric said. “I’ve got to hand it to each of the contestants for really turning up the heat. I’m sure the after-effects wouldn’t have been fun.”
You can also watch a video of the contest on the Fraser Grocer Facebook page.
The inaugural Australian Chilli Championships will be held in Sydney on 24 July, featuring the champions from each state and territory.
Eric has been stocking an array of chilli products in his independently-owned supermarket since opening, but after seeing the demand increase, he decided to focus more on chillies and less on groceries.
The Fraser Grocer store will close at the end of April, but Eric has secured a lease on a new shop in Federation Square at Gold Creek where he will open Canberra Chilli and Hot Sauces on 1 June.
The new store will have a range of products from small-batch producers around Australia and internationally after word reached America of a new store opening in Canberra. Products will range from sauces, rubs, condiments, chocolates, challenges, seeds and chillies.
“I’ve even managed to find a producer who has a preserved candy infused with habanero and Carolina reaper chilli,” Eric said. “It’s sweet but lethal.”
Eric said the heat had been turned up for chilli products in the region after he began stocking a range of products in his store at Fraser Grocer.
“In the supermarket, I’ve got about 120 products from 35 producers, while the new store will have more than 400 products from 70-plus producers,” he said.
“People from all over Canberra have been coming in and having a look at the sauces which have been going extremely well, as well as chilli honey and the super-hot chilli powders that are 100 per cent pure chilli. People have been giving them a go but soon find out that less is more.”
Eric has also been getting orders from the Canberra Chilli and Hot Sauces website, while he is also looking for supporters for a Canberra Chilli Festival via a Go Fund Me page.