'The Austin Chronicle' Hot Sauce Contest

Every summer there is some looming circumstance that causes the organizers of The Austin Chronicle Hot Sauce Contest a certain degree of preshow anxiety. This year, there was a potential triple threat: a record-busting string of 100-degree-plus days, a nationwide salmonella scare involving the core ingredients to fresh salsa, and a last-minute health department ruling that prohibited serving any homemade salsas to the public for the first time in the history of the event. Fortune smiled on us again this year, however. The total number of salsas entered in all three categories came to more than 500, there were plenty of salsas under the tasting tent, and everyone survived. In fact, some cloud cover and a cool afternoon breeze inspired most of the crowd to linger until the announcement of the winners at the end of the day. We'll take that outcome any year!

The restaurant category saw mostly repeat winners with Sazón, Curra's Grill, Torchy's Tacos, Serranos, and Iguana Grill developing or adding to their established winning streaks. Campus-area newcomer Cuatros showed well, as did a new mobile barbecue outfit called the Smokin Rose of Texas BBQ. We noticed some new names amid the winners in the individual categories but also noted that Austin Slow Burn owners Jill and Kevin Lewis chose to compete against each other with special variety sauces, with Jill taking home the first-place glass this year. The father-daughter team of Mattie and Russell Lewis (no relation to Jill and Kevin) came in second. Among the commercial bottlers, contest newcomers Gourmet Country Farm and Fredericksburg Farms garnered first-place trophies, although those sassy Two Hot Mamas and Brian Rush of Tears of Joy swept the most prizes, with a few left over for Austin Slow Burn, Tacodeli, Sgt. Pepper's, Ana's Salsa, Aztexan, and Texas-Texas.

Food Network host Bob Blumer and his crew made the most of their stay in Austin, visiting Jill and Kevin Lewis at home while they created their entries for the individual competition and stopping in at the Tears of Joy store Downtown to sample some of the myriad fiery products in owner Brian Rush's inventory while J.P. Hayes whipped up a batch of Sgt. Pepper's Tejas Tears Habanero Chile Sauce. Look for Blumer's new show, Glutton for Punishment, to feature a segment about his experience as a celebrity judge at the Chronicle Hot Sauce Contest some time after the program debuts in the spring of 2009.

The Winners

* indicates previous winners


Red Sauce


First Sazón*

Second Serranos*

Third Torchy's Tacos*

Honorable Mention: El Caribe Mexican Restaurant, La Cocina de Consuelo, Maria Maria La Cantina, Gage Hotel

Green Sauce

First Cuatros

Second Torchy's Tacos*

Third The Smokin Rose of Texas BBQ


Honorable Mention: ZuZu Handmade Mexican Food, El Caribe Mexican Restaurant

Special Variety

First Curra's Grill*

Second Iguana Grill*

Third Serranos*

Honorable Mention: Hilton Garden Inn – Downtown, Uncle Billy's Brew & Que, Rio Grande Mexican Restaurant


Red Sauce

First Thomas Frist

Second Kimberly Johnson*

Third John Cunningham

Honorable Mention: Shawn Muncy, Lisa Brooks, Kelly Robinson, Laura Martinez-McIntosh, Kala Uprety, Deborah Vogt, P.D. Wilder, Jamie Rocha, Mark Choban, Miguel Alvarez, Nathan Beels, Lance Brauckman, Amy Zeinner, Rita Huffman, Camille Gray (Georgetown), Jacob Serda, Traci Canales, Brian Skokowski

Marti Cardenas
Marti Cardenas

Green Sauce

First Marti Cardenas*

Second Alex Olmos

Third Christina Stolte

Honorable Mention: Jeff & Tina Hall (Hearne), Magda Alanis, John Unger, Shane Pickett, Karen Kessel, Thomas Zavaleta, Monica Vega (Round Rock), Eric Castro, Kala Uprety, Linda Steinhardt (Cedar Park)

Special Variety

First Jill Lewis (owner, Austin Slow Burn)

Second Mattie & Russell Lewis

Third Robert Mayberry* (UT campus executive chef)

Honorable Mention: Zoey Samad, Paul Peterson, Tim Hudgeons (Cedar Park), Jonathan Cherry, MaryBeth Campisi, Rick Olmos, Kevin Hedtke, Tony Grasso, Cyrus Sanchez, Ed O'Neill, Michelle Ermlich

Commercial Bottlers

Red Sauce

First Fredericksburg Farms – Watershed Ranch Roasted Chipotle Salsa

Second Texas-Texas – Texas Scream Salsa*

Third Ana's Salsa*

Honorable Mention: Sgt. Pepper's El Chipotle Hot Sauce – Smoked Tomato


Green Sauce

First Tacodeli – Verde Salsa*

Second Austin Slow Burn – Salsa Verde*

Third Two Hot Mamas Salsa Co. – Chile Verde*

Special Variety

First Tears of Joy Hot Sauce Shop – Tequila Lime Hot Sauce*

Second Pepper Creek Farm – Island Flame Glaze (Belton)

Third Sgt. Pepper's Roasted Jalapeno Pesto*

Honorable Mention: Tacodeli – Salsa Doña, Austin Jam Co. – Pecan Pepper Jam (Cedar Park), Fredericks­burg Farms – Rasp­berry Peach Chipotle Glaze (Fred­ericks­burg), Texas-Texas – Black Bean & Corn Salsa

Pepper Sauce

First Tacodeli – Joel's Hot Muffler

Second Tears of Joy Hot Sauce Shop – August in Austin Hot Sauce*

Third Austin Slow Burn – Habanero Jelly With Rosemary

Honorable Mention: Big Daddy's High on Fire Hot Sauce (Hous­ton), Fredericksburg Farms – Roasted Tomatillo Pepper Sauce (Fredericks­burg), Sgt. Pepper's Tejas Tears Habanero Chile Sauce, Winston's Hot Pepper Sauce

Commercial Bottlers People's Choice

Red Sauce

Two Hot Mamas
Two Hot Mamas

First Two Hot Mamas Salsa Co. – Creamy Chipotle Salsa Dip*

Second Gourmet Country Farm – Koki's Green Garlic Salsa

Third Two Hot Mamas Salsa Co. – Salsa Roja*

Honorable Mention: Tears of Joy Hot Sauce Shop – 6th Street Salsa Red, Ana's Salsa, Tacodeli – Roja Salsa, M Circle M/Uncertain Farms – #3 Roasted Garlic Salsa (Seguin), Rancho Bravo – Salsa Picante (Houston), Austin Slow Burn – Salsa Con Habanero

Green Sauce

First Two Hot Mamas Salsa Co. – Roasted Almond Chimichurri*

Second Two Hot Mamas Salsa Co. – Chile Verde*

Third Tie: Austin Slow Burn – Salsa Verde*

Tears of Joy Hot Sauce Shop – 6th Street Salsa Green*

Honorable Mention: Tacodeli – Verde Salsa, Gage Hotel – Venom Verde (Marathon)

Special Variety

First Gourmet Country Farm – Green Garlic Dip

Second Two Hot Mamas Salsa Co. – Creamy Cilantro Salsa Dip*

Third Tears of Joy Hot Sauce Shop – Tequila Lime Hot Sauce*

Honorable Mention: Two Hot Mamas Salsa Co. – Mambo Combo, Austin Slow Burn – Green Chile con Queso, Winston's Mangogh Sizzle Sauce, Tacodeli – Salsa Doña, Austin Jam Co. – Austin Pepper Jam, Austin Jam Co. – Pecan Pepper Jam, Fredericksburg Farms – Raspberry Peach Chipotle Glaze (Fredericksburg)

Pepper Sauce


First Aztexan – Habanero Supreme*

Second Two Hot Mamas Salsa Co. – Amaretto Pepper Sauce*

Third Tears of Joy Hot Sauce Shop – August in Austin Hot Sauce*

Honorable Mention: Winston's Hot Pepper Sauce, Big Daddy's Ass Burn Hot Sauce, Austin Slow Burn – Jamaican Jerk Marinade, Tacodeli – Joel's Hot Muf­fler, Rancho Bravo – Aji Rocoto Peruvian Hot Pepper Sauce (Houston), Big Daddy's Amplified Heat Mean Smokin' Green Hot Sauce (Houston), Big Daddy's Flaming Lip (Houston)

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