The home of the Chicago Fire soccer team in suburban Bridgeview’s about to get hotter thanks to a new event celebrating hot sauce. The first-ever Chi Town Hot Sauce Expo takes place on June 23 and 24 at Toyota Park with 40 hot sauce makers from across the world. It’ll also host a Carolina Reaper Pepper eating contest with reps from the Guinness Book of World Records on hand to observe any foolishness. There are also spicy cocktails and food items with names like “The Italian Beef Sandwich of Destruction,” and “The Slaytanic Burrito.”
The event is organized by High River Sauces which held a similar event last month in Brooklyn. They’ll have plenty of hot sauce samples, and organizers compare hot sauce fans to craft beer fans. New Zealand, English, and Australian hot sauce companies will also be on hand.
The NYC Hot Sauce Expo featured Mad Dog 357 Plutonium, a pricey hot sauce costing $100 per ounce. That wasn’t even the most expensive sauce available, as the New York Post reported another sauce which came in a bottle shaped like the State of Liberty, CaJohn Lady Liberty, costs $450 a bottle. These are limited edition sauces that become collector’s items and can cost more than $1,000. Locally, Chuck’s Southern Cafe in suburban Burbank is a sponsor. But hot sauces are an emerging business. Bigger sponsors include Fuego Box, a club that mails customers hot sauces every month and advertises on national TV. Puckerbutt Pepper Company is also associated with the event. The company’s “Smokin’ Ed” Currie was inducted into the Guinness Book of World Records last month for inventing the Carolina Reaper. That’s the world’s hottest pepper.
Hot sauce fans who routinely check Scoville Heat Units — the standard measure for hot peppers — may find this event appealing. These are the people who embark on pepper-eating contests or watch YouTube videos of people struggling to eat ghost peppers or Carolina Reapers. The expo will also feature a spicy chicken wing eating contest, and taco, hot dog, and deep-dish pizza challenges. Besides the food and drinks, there’s also a Chihuahua beauty pageant.
Tickets come in three varieties. There’s $10 for general admission, $40 brings a package with barbecue and beer, and $100 comes with VIP backstage access, limitless food and cocktails, and swag.