Executive chef of Fonda San Miguel, Miguel Ravago has been recognized by the James Beard Foundation as one of the Southwest's top chefs. Ravago is the co-author (with Marilyn Tausend) of Cocina de la Familia, a cookbook that features authentic Mexican family-style cooking.
Chef and co-owner of the popular Vespaio restaurant on South Congress, Alan Lazarus has long been considered one of Austin's top toques. His previous Austin restaurants include Basil's and Tortuga's. Alan also spent several years serving as the executive chef for Whole Foods.
Chef and owner of Rather Sweet Bakery & Cafe in Fredericksburg, former dessert chef for Tony's restaurant in Houston, and head baker of Bread Alone Bakery in Austin, Rebecca Rather aka "The Pastry Queen" is considered by many to be one of the state's top bakers.
The executive chef at the Headliners Club for more than 20 years, chef Donald Hungerford has been a hot-sauce lover since shortly after birth. A longtime veteran of the Austin restaurant scene, Hungerford got his start cooking at the venerable Mike & Charlie's.
You've seen Michael Lomonaco on such television shows as Epicurious on the Travel Channel, Michael's Place on the Food Network, the Master Chefs series with Julia Child, The Today Show, and the Discovery Channel's Great Chefs. Lomonaco was the chef/director of Windows on the World and Wild Blue, its innovative sibling. Michael has cooked at Le Cirque, the 21 club, and other respected Manhattan restaurants.
Currently the restaurant critic of the Houston Press, Robb Walsh (founder and head judge) is the former Food editor of The Austin Chronicle and former editor in chief of Chile Pepper magazine. A two-time James Beard Award winner, Walsh is also the author of the Legends of Texas Barbecue Cookbook.
Preliminary judges open, sort, and screen every single bottle of hot sauce entered in the contest. Then they pass the best-qualified entries on to the finals. As you might imagine, this task sometimes involves the unpleasant experience of being the first to eat a salsa that is too hot for human consumption. For their selfless sacrifice, we wish to thank these preliminary judges in advance:
Joe Nick Patoski