Our Guest this month is Rob Dunn from Australian Extreme Chilli Condiments. We chat with him about his small business, award-winning products, his passion for chilli and how he got started in a boutique industry.
Tell us how you came about starting Australian Extreme Chilli Condiments?
In 1995, I started a window and pressure cleaning business. The business was growing, and success was unfolding. This success came at a cost. In 2014, I received news that I had over exerted himself for too long with this high impact, labour intensive work, and spinal surgery on my neck was imminent. I was forcefully advised to seek alternative employment.
Whilst recovering from surgery and watching a Jamie Oliver DVD on cooking with chilli, a “light bulb” went off in my head, to create different chilli infused salts and sauces. Australian Extreme Chilli Condiments was born. We are now proud sponsors of the “Weber Kettle BBQ Team Australia” and “Symens Family Motorsport”.
Where did your passion for the humble chilli begin?
In 1984, I had developed a friendship with an Italian colleague, at a large telecommunications company. Joe used to eat chillies every day with his lunch. “How hot are they?” I asked. “Not too hot,” he replied. He offered me one. I threw it in my mouth, and he laughed. My eyes watered and I started hiccuping, much to the amusement of my workmates. It was at that moment, my love for chilli was born!
After leaving my job in telecommunications, I entered into the hospitality industry, where I spent the next 10 years. This is where I developed my new passion and mastered the art of cooking.
It’s a family run business; who’s involved?
I’m responsible for planting, picking, watering and fertilising. I also make all of our products by hand. I bottle, package, post internet orders, restock our distributors and stockists and finally, I ensure quality control.
Rachel, my beautiful wife, is responsible for keeping the accounts up to date and hand making our range of “Australian Extreme Apparel”, existing of aprons, bandannas, hair scrunchies, hand towels and more.
Jordan, our eldest son, is the official heat rating man, due to my very high tolerance to chilli. Jordan gives us his opinion of what would rate as hot or not. Sophie, our youngest daughter, is responsible for labelling of products, the official time keeper when setting up and packing away, sales and taste testing at events.
Last but not least, Maureen, my beautiful mum, waters our plants while we’re at events and festivals. Together, we are “AUSTRALIAN EXTREME CHILLI CONDIMENTS”.
Tell us a bit about the process; what goes into making your sauces?
Our range of chilli infused sauces, salts and BBQ rubs are all gluten free and vegan friendly (except our Get Nutted, which contains crustaceans). Our products do not contain emulsifiers, preservatives or artificial colours/flavours.
We currently have nine sauces, five salts and 11 BBQ rubs. Our sauces range from “Mild to Wild” in heat. Our mildest sauce is “Blushin Berry” – a combination of strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, lemon juice and a touch of chilli and sugar to balance the tartness of the berries. This is delicious as a dessert sauce or as a glaze on pork, lamb, duck, turkey or chicken.
Where do you source your chillis and other ingredients?
We grow the majority of chillies at our home in Krambach. Friends and family also grow for us: Ross and Karen Bailey from Bayleaf Chilli and Herb Nursery; Todd Ward from Todds Hot Chilli; a friend who lives in Bulahdelah; and my dad. Phil Warren of Boogaloos Nursery grows our fresh herbs and fruit. We love supporting fellow family businesses.
Is there an art to growing chillis? Do you have to be a green thumb, or is it relatively easy?
Soil preparation is paramount. We start with organic mushroom compost, then we add organic blood and bone. I also walk the neighbour’s paddocks and collect cow manure.
Regular watering will keep your plants happy, a shade cloth for the hot summer days, and Seasol will top up nutrients. When your plants start flowering, dig in some Pot Ash; this sets your fruit and prevents flower drop. Let your chillies ripen on the bush for full heat and flavour.
You’re a multi award winner; tell us about some of the awards you’ve achieved.
We are proud to have been voted as having some of the best chilli products in Australia, New Zealand and the world. Since 2014 we have entered into the Mr Chilli Awards. Products are blind tasted and scored on a scale of heat, flavour, appearance and texture.
Another competition is the Global Hot Sauce Awards (open to chilli based companies around the world). Our Blushin Berry sauce earned a first place in fruit/sweet category. Our chilli infused salts are second to none in the past two years.
Over the past four years of business, we have managed to be awarded nineteen first places, five second places and one third place.
So how hot is hot when it comes to chillis? What varieties pack a punch?
The Scoville Scale is how the potency of chilli is measured. To perform the Scoville Test, an alcohol extract of capsaicin oil from a dried chilli is mixed with a solution of water and sugar to the point where a panel of taste-testers can barely detect the heat of the pepper.
At the serious end of the scale is the Moruga Scorpion, officially the world’s hottest. We use this in one of our sauces and salts.
The Carolina Reaper rates at 2,200,000 on the scale. What this means is that 2,200,000 drops of water/sugar are used to dilute one drop of capsaicin back to zero. We use the Carolina Reaper in three of our sauces and 1 of our salts.
A lot of people assume chilli is ‘HOT’. What they don’t realise is that chillies are packed full of flavour. For instance, the ‘Aji Limon’ chilli has a chilli hit, but tastes like lemon, a ‘Bishops Crown’ is very sweet and quite mild (great in salads), an ‘Orange Habenero’ has a slight apricot flavour.
What are some of your products, and where can we purchase them?
We have from mild to wild. A mixed berry sauce, Worcestershire sauce, Malaysian satay sauce, fruity BBQ sauce, citrus sauce, tomato based and our hottest two are both capsicum based. We have Szechwan Surprise, Blistering Limestones, Fiery Gold Nuggets, Vulcanic Hot Rocks and Smokin Reaper Rocks in our chilli infused salt range. Our BBQ rub range has something to suit every cut of meat, poultry, seafood and vegetables.
Our stockists include:
Bite Me Smokehouse and Kebabs Mobile catering truck; Barbecues Galore Forster, Griffo’s Gourmet Meats Nabiac; Commercial Hotel Krambach; Bluegums On Bucketts Krambach; Roundabout Inn Gloucester; Cundletown Gourmet Meats & Chicken; Taree Central Meats; Old Bar Gourmet Meats & Chicken; Greenhouse Café Nabiac; Barclay Oysters Forster; Avalon Village Meats; Red Hot Chilli Pepper Caloundra; The Chilli Shop Kuranda; Campbells Store Morpeth; Pelican Market, Old Bar community markets.
How do we find out more info?