A chilli fanatic who organised the UK’s first chilli festival has brought his fiery business to the people of Leeds.
Frank Jay’s chilli festival is now an annual event in his native Brighton, attracting 10,000 people. But now he has moved up north to set up the Chilli Shop in the Merrion Centre, with plans to host a chilli festival in the city - including his famous chilli-eating competition.
Frank, who now lives in Pudsey, said: “I organised one of the first farmers markets in Brighton and Hove and there was a chilli stall with really hot sauces. He suggested I organise a chilli festival so I did, I couldn’t believe it when 10,000 people turned up. It was before the days of social media so we spread the word through posters and leafleting.”
Frank said he wanted to champion local chilli growers and products all year round through his shop and give people more of an experience.
The shop does have its gimmicks including chilli gummy bears and popping candy, but Frank is surprised by the number of foodies he gets into his Leeds store.
He said: “I really love Leeds and decided it was the right place to open my first shop outside Brighton. I loved the location of the Merrion centre in the Arena Quarter. I knew I would appeal to students, but I’ve been surprised by the genuine number of foodies who come to me.”
Shoppers can sample produce which is labelled out of ten - going up to an eye-watering 75 out of ten.
“One to three out of ten is very mild and pretty much anyone can eat those. Then it starts to crank up. Another thing that has surprised me in Leeds is that people who don’t know each other really start to interact when they are talking about chilli and the sauces.
“They are also very keen to tell me about things that have tried and would like me to source, which is fantastic.
“Everything has to earn is place in the shop.”
Initially The Chilli Shop in on a six month trial, but Frank is hopeful that will be extended if the amount of interest continues.
CHILLI PEPPERS: THE FACTS
The heat of chilli is measured using the Scoville which is named after its inventor US pharmacist Wilbur Scoville.
An exact weight of dried pepper is dissolved in alcohol to extract the heat components (capsinoids), then diluted in a solution of water. Increasing concentrations of the extracted capsinoids are given to a panel of five trained tasters, until a majority can detect the heat in a dilution.The heat level is based on this dilution, rated in multiples of 100 SHU. At The Chilli Shop in Leeds, Frank has also added the ‘museum of pain’, where he stocks some of the hottest products in the world. The hottest product is Suspect Device, made from an enhanced ghost chilli, the hottest chilli in the world, measuring 13 million Scoville units. So to dilute one drop so there no heat you would need 13 million equivalent drops of water. Frank said: “It’s dangerous stuff. And we are careful who we sell it to.”