Meet Your 2022 Hot Sauce Festival Judges

Meet the tastemakers for this year’s competition

(l-r) Arati, Richard, and Carrie sampling sauce during the final round of judging (Photo by John Anderson)

Melanie Haupt

Austin Chronicle Food Editor
IG: @auschronfoodeditor

Carrie Rodriguez


Rodriguez, a singer-songwriter from Austin, Texas, finds beauty in the cross-pollination of diverse traditions. A passionate performer, she melds fiery fiddle playing, electrifying vocals, and a fresh interpretation of new and classic songs with an "Ameri-Chicana" attitude. Her last release, the critically acclaimed bilingual album Lola, was named as one of NPR's top 50 albums of the year. Carrie has performed on stages across North America and Europe for the last decade, as well as on programs such as Austin City Limits, The Tonight Show, A Prairie Home Companion, and NPR's Tiny Desk Concerts. Carrie has written the music for Americano, which played off-Broadway March-June of this year, in addition to launching her Laboratorio residency in Austin. Laboratorio is a musical exploration, as well as a celebration of Latinx culture and its contribution to the American experiment. For each live performance, Carrie and her all-star Laboratorio band collaborate with a diverse array of guest artists, ensuring that every show is completely unique.

Richard Z. Santos


Santos' debut novel, Trust Me, was a finalist for the Writers' League of Texas Book Awards and was named one of the best debuts of the year by CrimeReads. He is currently editing a collection of horror stories for Arte Público Press. He is the executive director of Austin Bat Cave, an organization that provides creative writing workshops to students in underresourced areas. He is a former board member of the National Book Critics Circle and has judged contests for the Kirkus Prize, the National Education Association, the International Thriller Writers association, the Texas Book Festival, and many more. Recent work can be found in Texas Monthly, Awst Press, Kirkus Reviews, CrimeReads, and Salt Hill. In a previous career, he worked for some of the nation's top political campaigns, consulting firms, and labor unions.

Arati Singh

Austin ISD At-Large Trustee

At-large trustee and board secretary Arati Singh is the first Asian American to serve on Austin ISD's school board. In this role, Arati has changed policies and practices to close achievement gaps, to improve special education, to keep students safe through the pandemic, and to increase staff pay. Arati is a former fourth-grade bilingual teacher and for the past 20 years has been a program evaluator for college access and STEM federal grant projects. She is a seasoned advocate at the Texas Capitol and a former nationally recognized PTA president. Arati has degrees from UNC-Chapel Hill and UT-Austin. Arati is a creative problem solver, with eight technology-related patents to her name. She and her husband, Ranjeev, have raised one AISD graduate, and they have another child currently enrolled in AISD. She enjoys hot sauces from various cultures!

Alissa Ziemianski

Community Engagement Manager, Central Texas Food Bank; President, Austin Coed Soccer Association

When it comes to building community, Alissa is firmly in the intersection of a uniquely Austin Venn diagram. Driven by her desire to eliminate food insecurity, she manages fundraising partnerships and events for the largest hunger-relief organization in Central Texas. An intense love of soccer drives her mighty efforts on the pitch, in the stands, as a board member for Austin Soccer Foundation, as an advisor for Austin Rise FC (new local pro-am women's soccer club), and at the helm of the Best of Austin-winning "Friendly-but-Feisty" adult outdoor soccer league. Her love languages are creating space where everyone feels welcome and safe to be authentically themselves, and sharing delicious food. "The world is big enough for everyone to live boldly, eat well, love and thrive." Oh yeah, and she absolutely LOVES spice. IG: @cavemanhooker

A selection of sauces await judgment (Photo by John Anderson)

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