The Austin Chronicle

'Peace, Love, and Chiles, Baby!'

By Virginia B. Wood, August 23, 2013, Food

Leaving a place at the table for our friend Jill

Welcome one and all to the 23rd annual Austin Chronicle Hot Sauce Festival! We've completely settled into our new home at Fiesta Gardens on the shady banks overlooking Lady Bird Lake, and we're throwing the year's hottest party in honor of our departed friend, Jill Lewis. We've never dedicated the entire festival to anyone before, but we've also never held a festival without Jill's participation, either. In the early days, Jill and Kevin Lewis entered their hot sauce concoctions as individual contenders, and after they created a company called Austin Slow Burn to market their line of fiery food products, they got in on the ground floor of the Commercial Bottlers division. Now, we're proud that Austin Slow Burn is a bona fide Hot Sauce Contest success story. Jill was absolutely passionate about chile peppers, and that passion was contagious. She was her own best salesperson, enticing even the most unwilling customers to sample her tasty line of goods at in-store demos and festival appearances alike. She was a fantastic force of nature with a special gift for hospitality; her incredible talents, solid support, and boundless enthusiasm were mainstays of this event for 22 years.

Jill Lewis died of esophageal cancer on June 4 at the age of 53, only a few short months after her diagnosis. Her passing has been a huge blow to her family and friends. Kevin Lewis and his son, Kevin Neal, couldn't face the thought of participating in the festival without Jill this summer. We certainly understand how they feel and hope that Austin Slow Burn will return in the future. This year, we decided the best way to remember Jill and recognize Austin Slow Burn's contribution to the festival would be to set them a place at the table. On the festival grounds this Sunday, there will be a booth with an Austin Slow Burn banner, pictures of our dear friend, an arrangement of her favorite flowers, candles, and a memory book where people can offer condolences to her family or share a quote about their favorite Austin Slow Burn product. We'll present the memory book to Jill's sister, Theresa Harrison, on the stage as part of the awards ceremony. Additionally, we encourage Austin Slow Burn fans to post remembrances to Austin Slow Burn's Facebook page or tweet about her at hashtag #welovejill.

Everything you need to know to maximize your participation in and enjoyment of this event can be found in this special section: contest rules, music lineup, cooking demo schedule, food and drink vendor roster, site map, and parking guidelines – it's all here.

Nobody enjoyed spicy food and a good party better than our gal Jill, so remember her today and have an exceptionally good time in her honor.

For map, registration rules, and more, visit our 2013 'Austin Chronicle' Hot Sauce Festival page.

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