It’s called the scoville scale, used to measure the amount of spice in food. These are units of measurement that fans of the Third Annual NYC Hot Sauce Expo are well familiar with. Now, anybody can whip up a sauce to burn a hole in your damn esophagus, but this event, going down April 25 and 26 at the Brooklyn Expo Center, isn’t just about fire, but flavor.
“I am very excited about the NYC Hot Sauce Expo this year,” says event director, Steve Seabury, “We’re going to feature 50 hot sauce companies from around the United States. It’s going to be every hot sauce fan’s spicy dream.”
Seabury is also the owner/founder of High River Sauces, a veteran of the music industry who always had an interest in food. He is the author of Mosh Potato, a collection of recipes by the musicians who shared his culinary edge. High River is a line of organic, artisan chili sauces with a rock n’ roll attitude like the bold ‘Hellacious,’ ‘Rogue,’ ‘Grapes of Wrath,’ and ‘Foo Foo Mama Choo.’ He’s probably best known for his tropical fruit blended with habaneros known as ‘Tears of the Sun.’
The Expo is the kind of gathering that tattooed foodies drool over, all the taste without the pretension. Over two days, it features 50 brands of hot sauces, spicy foods, craft beer, and general “Saucesomeness.” Seabury’s also got a full schedule that includes the Bloody Mary Mixdown NYC Championship, a taco eating contest, his Hot Sauce Hall of Fame induction ceremony, and celebrity appearances.
“We are getting bigger crowds, bigger eating challenges,” adds Seabury, “And this year we are going to witness the Guinness Book of Records Carolina Reaper Eating Challenge. The person who eats the most Reaper Peppers in a minute will be the world record holder.”
And, as it turns out, the pepper sauce world also has a pretty strong crossover into tattoo culture, both flavors infused with offbeat character. “At least in my circles, my tattoo and hot sauce friends are all bat-shit crazy,” laughs Seabury, “We love to live life with the pedal to the floor, 100 mph.”
Seabury is inked from his days in the rock world and from a look at the very folks who create these heated artisan specialties in their kitchens, it’s practically a tattoo expo.
“It’s New York City, man!” says Chef Johnny McLauglin of Heartbreaking Dawn’s, known in underground circles for “Fire Burn Babylon” his collaboration with legendary DC hardcore band, the Bad Brains. “Steve has a really unique approach. He comes from a similar school of thought, bringing his music approach and resources to hot sauce. And it’s in the best city in the country with a ton of buzz, press, and the energy of all those people.”
McLaughin is a self-taught chef who worked most of his life selling tattoo and piercing supplies as well as hosting sterilization technique seminars. He’s got his own collection of work by Oliver Peck and the late Frank Lee. He’d studied comparative literature and had always been into visual arts and painting. But McLaughin always had a passion for peppers and about a decade ago, began taking his food adventure more seriously.
“There were all these creative elements that I brought into my spicy creations. And I really like the interactions with people. From the second they put that spoon in their mouth you know how they like it,” McLaughlin explains.
Six years ago, he and his wife Nicole launched Heartbreaking Dawn’s with their initial success not at food shows, but tattoo conventions.
“All of our labels were done by different tattoo artists – Jay Connor at Electric Lotus in Boonton, Brian Marsman who’s at Immortal Ink, Shiela Marcello at Electric Tattoo in Asbury Park, and a couple images by Frank Lee,” McLaughlin says.
In addition, the festival will feature meet and greets with the famously tattooed Manhattan chef, Chris Santos, judge on the Food Network’s Chopped. On Saturday from 3-6 p.m. and Sunday from 3-5 p.m., Santos will be signing bottles of his new Rattler BBQ sauce.
The Brooklyn Expo Center is located at 79 Franklin Street. General Admission is $10. Hot sauce fans can upgrade to the BBQ Lunch ticket to include craft beer tickets, take home sauces, and food or the Super VIP ticket that offers access to the VIP, open bar and a whole lot of other spicy goodies.