The Austin Chronicle

2020 Hot Sauce Festival Judges

Meet the tastemakers for this year's competition

By Jessi Cape, August 28, 2020, Food

Jessi Cape

Food Editor of The Austin Chronicle

Emily Burns

Client and Public Relations Marketing Manager of The Austin Chronicle

Alejandra Rodriguez

Founder of La Flaca ATX

La Flaca is a small urban farm in Southwest Austin specializing in growing over 100 varieties of edible flowers, herbs, and hot chile peppers. During the pandemic, La Flaca is focusing on their signature seasoning and smoked salts. Rodriguez said, "I grew up in Mexico surrounded by people that love chiles and hot sauce. My mom always had homemade salsa in the fridge, my dad a raw serrano pepper to accompany every meal. So becoming a farmer and growing hot peppers made sense to me. Judging the 30th annual Hot Sauce Festival was a blast! The most exciting thing that has happened to me since the pandemic started. It was a pleasure to chat with other pepper heads while eating way too much hot sauce."

Nahika Hillery

Chef/owner of Kreyòl Korner

Kreyòl Korner is the first Haitian food truck in Texas, and chef Nahika worked in the biology and education fields before tapping into her family recipes and bringing island food to the Austin masses. Haitian food is a Creole cuisine with other culinary influences, and it is known for bold and spicy flavor combinations. Her Food Network-featured menu specializes in classics like jerk wings and pwason (stewed or fried red snapper), and refreshing bevs like watermelon soda and guava punch. Don't sleep on other creations like the Lari Burger with a plantain bun, in-house patty, sautéed onions, bechamel, pikliz (Haitian pickled slaw), and yucca fries.

Kristin Collins

Founder/owner of Fluff Meringues & More

Fluff Meringues on Burnet Road is a truly original patisserie specializing in delightfully colorful treats like meringues, madeleines, and marshmallows (and their newest addition, Lamingtons), plus savories like ricotta brioche toast, hand pies, and quiche. Collins, a self-taught baker with two master's degrees, said, "I'm not sure when my love of heat came to be – I couldn't even add [table] pepper to my eggs as a kid – but at some point I decided that unless it made me hurt and sweat, I didn't like it. So here I am eating ghosts and reapers. Judging was a lot of fun! I enjoyed getting to meet several other lovely badass women in local food ... and the hot sauces weren't too bad either. Well, except one – that was painful!"

Lenny Dewi

Instagram influencer and Asian food expert @eats_n_noods

Lenny Dewi splits her days between cardiac nursing and highlighting every kind of Asian cuisine available in Austin. On her popular Instagram page, @eats_n_noods, Dewi shares cooking demos for budget-friendly, spice-flexible, flavor bomb dishes from all over the world, including her youth in Indonesia and Singapore ... and lots of dumplings and noodles. Dewi said, "I love spicy foods because I feel like they fire up my taste buds and get them excited. I would sweat, die and do it all over again. The fun part about judging hot sauces is the anticipation of what I was about to try. Some sauces that didn't look spicy ended up making my nose sweat. The judging process was definitely fun, though I warn the misery might become delayed."

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