Among the Smoldering Embers

The 17th annual 'Austin Chronicle' Hot Sauce Festival: Contest results

Among the Smoldering Embers
Photo by John Anderson

Another summer has come to an end and, with it, another incendiary culinary competition under the blazing sun. We're told that more than 400 salsas were presented for consideration this year and that at least one of the new preliminary judges left the table with a definite capsaicin buzz. In reviewing this year's Hot Sauce Festival outcomes, it's good to see both returning champions and some new blood among the list of winners. In the earlier days of this 17-year-old event, a chef named John Randall concocted salsas that placed regularly in the individual category as well as some that were representative of three different businesses – Green Pastures, the Yellow Rose, and the Texas Chili Parlor – before moving away from Austin and retiring from the competition. These days, a young chef named Paul Petersen has taken up that banner, recently garnering accolades for himself as well as his former Little Texas Bistro in Buda and now trekking back to Austin every August to represent the Gage Hotel from the far West Texas town of Marathon. That shows a man who is as serious about his hot sauce as he is about keeping his toque in the ring here. Speaking of the accomplishments of new winners, Sazón has been open in South Lamar for less than a year, and we're predicting that a win in the red-sauce category will be a boost for their young business. New winners took the top spots in three of the four individual categories this time out, while the same three folks who made the best pico de gallo last year simply traded places on the podium this summer. Area commercial bottlers brought both new concoctions and established crowd favorites for the coveted People's Choice area of the contest, and the celebrity judges dipped their collective chips into the commercial offerings again after a hiatus of several years. The results demonstrate that their tastes tend to vary from those of the overall crowd. We offer our profound thanks to members of both the preliminary and celebrity judging panels and our heartiest congratulations to the contestants for their participation in this annual endeavor. Most of all, we offer our appreciation to the salsa-loving citizens of Austin for their enthusiastic annual support of our friends at the Capital Area Food Bank of Texas and for that definitive brand of civic "weirdness" that delivers a huge crowd to Waterloo Park every August to eat the heat!

Restaurant Category:

(* denotes previous winners)

Curra's (Photo by John Anderson)

Red Sauce

1) Sazón

2) Curra's*

3) Rio Grande*

Honorable Mention: Antonio's Tex-Mex

Green Sauce

1) El Rincon*

2) The Gage Hotel (Marathon, Texas)

3) Curra's*

Honorable Mentions: Antonio's Tex-Mex, El Caribe Mexican Restaurant, Copa Bar & Grill, Cafe Serranos, Kenichi Restaurant

Special Variety

1) Curra's*

2) Serranos*

3) El Rey Mexican Food

Honorable Mentions: Rio Grande, Antonio's Tex-Mex, El Rey Mexican Food

Individual Category:

Red Sauce

Logan Kunitz
Logan Kunitz (Photo by John Anderson)

1) Logan Kunitz

2) Paul Peterson (Alpine)*

3) Jaime Simon (Pflugerville)

Honorable Mentions: Kala Uprety, David Wellings, Chuck Hell, Rebecca Thomas, Mark Kessel (Wimberley), Bart Emken (Pflugerville), Pete Gaitan Jr., Jania Shelton, Kevan Hedtke, Nicole Dockrey, Kim Wagner (Georgetown), Augie Guerrero Jr., James Moore, Scott Nettles, Farrell Elliott (Cedar Park), Brenda Bustillos (Alvarado), Deborah Vogt, Blake Pabst, Cesar S. Rodriguez, Jonathan Robles, Juliet Wenzel, Maulik Suthar, Debbie Purcell, John Robinson, Ray Ramos, Camille Gray (Georgetown), Alejandro Villarreal, Mark Choban, Meghan Smith, Kevin Yang, Angela So, Vanessa George, Tom Nesbitt, Linda Steinhardt (Cedar Park), Rebecca Cooper

Green Sauce

1) Ted Valmassei (Round Rock)

2) Arty Passes

3) Barry Hoelscher*

Honorable Mentions: Marlo Cooper, Laura McGuire, Tom Spradlin, Evan Bozarth, Steve Schulz, Jonathan Hemmeter, Thomas Zavaleta & Brian Campbell, Richard Arnold, Tyson J. Swindell, Paul Dubiel, Paul Petersen (Alpine), Nathan Cowley (Temple), Debra Jo Gilchrist, Russell Smith, Chris Haight, RosaLinda Anzaldua (Leander), Greg Holmes (Mexia), Sonya Miller, Patricia Carpenter, Shane Crawford, John Robinson

Special Variety

1) John W. Purser (Round Rock)

2) Kevar Hedtke

3) Jason and Angie Volk

Honorable Mentions: Mattie Lewis, Paul Petersen (Alpine), Stephnee Rice (San Marcos), Chamayne Ortegon (Pflugerville), Ray Ramos, Monica Segura, RosaLinda Anzaldua (Leander), Arty Passes, Burt Friedman, Sonya Miller, Carol Castillo (Dallas), Jaime Agueros, Sonya Miller, Mike Wallgren, Michael Cass, Joe Martinec (Cedar Creek), Shane Crawford, Jess Pena, Angelica Marrufo, Thomas Zavaleta, Tim McNamara, Sean McGrath

Pico de Gallo

1) Kala Uprety*

2) Valery Caselli-Dubov*

3) Scott Willis*

Honorable Mentions: Ray Ramos, Brian Campbell (Houston)

Commercial Bottlers' People's Choice:

(* denotes specific salsas that have placed in the past)

Two Hot Mamas
Two Hot Mamas (Photo by John Anderson)

Red Sauce

1) Texapenos Gourmet Red*

2) Two Hot Mamas Mambo Combo

3) Classy Delites Aztec Salsa

Honorable Mentions: Tears of Joy 6th St. Red Salsa, Two Hot Mamas Salsa Co. Salsa Roja, Austin Slow Burn Salsa con Habanero

Green Sauce

1) Two Hot Mamas Roasted Almond Chimichurri Mint

2) Classy Delites Pistachio Roasted Pepper Dip

3) Tacodeli Verde Salsa

Honorable Mentions: Texapenos Gourmet Green, Tears of Joy 6th St. Green Salsa, Two Hot Mamas Salsa Co. Chile Verde

Special Variety

1) Two Hot Mamas Creamy Cilantro Salsa Dip*

2) Classy Delites Chunky Pineapple Dip

3) Texapenos Orange Flame*

Honorable Mentions: Tears of Joy Tequila Lime Hot Sauce, Two Hot Mamas Salsa Co. Lemon Chipotle Salsa Dip, Austin Slow Burn Chile con Queso, Tacodeli Dona Salsa

Pepper Sauce

1) Aztexan Habanero Supreme*

2) Two Hot Mamas Amaretto Pepper Sauce

3) Winston's Hot Pepper Sauce*

Honorable Mentions: Texapenos Red Flame, Tears of Joy August in Austin Hot Sauce, Big Daddy's Ass Burn Hot Sauce

Commercial Bottlers:

Red Sauce

1) Rancho Bravo Salsa Picante

2) El Gringo Loco – Hot

Green Sauce

1) Two Hot Mamas Roasted Almond Chimichurri Mint

2) Austin Slow Burn*

Special Variety

1) Vern's Raspberry Chipotle Jelly

2) Vern's Habanero Jelly

3) Dig Dawg Salsa Chunkin' the Deuce Hot Sauce

Big Daddy's
Big Daddy's (Photo by John Anderson)

Honorable Mentions: Texapenos Orange Flame, Spiceburst Rocket Sauce, Beanie's Crazy Cranberry (Houston), Austin Slow Burn Chile con Queso, Sgt. Pepper's Smokey Chipotle Pesto

Pepper Sauce

1) Big Daddy's Ass Burn Hot Sauce

2) Texapenos Red Flame*

3) Sgt. Pepper's Tejas Tears*

Honorable Mentions: Big Daddy's High on Fire Hot Sauce (Houston), Sgt. Pepper's Tropical Tears, Sgt. Pepper's Tomatillo Chipotle

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