Hot stuff: return of Waiheke Homemade Chilli Sauce Fest

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Competition is heating up as entries to Waiheke’s Homemade Chilli Sauce Fest fly in. The event’s third outing will be at Wild Estate on 2 April.

Locally made chilli sauces, salsas, jams and chutneys will be taste-tested at the free event, with special guest judge Chris Cullen – head of Kiwi hot sauce brand Culley’s – hosting a question-and-answer session.

The man to beat is hot sauce maker Michael Minnaar, who has scooped the People’s Choice award back-to-back.

The organisers, chilli lovers Chris Walker and Alan Knight, have been inundated with interest since announcing the festival was back for 2023 after a Covid-created break last year.

They are inviting brave and curious chilli aficionados to come along to sample the entries, which must be home made by Waiheke residents.

“Previous festivals have seen some stunningly tasty and spicy sauces entered,” says Chris Walker. “This year the event will have three categories – hot sauces, sweet sauces, and a category for chutneys, jams and salsas. Winners are chosen by popular vote, with all who come to try the entries voting for their favourites.

“This year will also see some new features – a “professional’s pick” chosen by Cullen, and a Chilli Fashion in the Field competition run by chilli heads Mandy and Holly Brown.”

Waiheke may be best-known as an island of wine, but Chris says chilli is a bit of an obsession here too.

“The inspiration for the festival was just a few friends sitting around who like chilli sauce, growing chillis and making chilli sauce,” he says. “We shared these with each other and thought there are probably lots of other people making it as well, wouldn’t it be good if we got a chance to try them all and let people show off what they were making?”

• Liza Hamilton

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