Garden sizzles with zesty food, hot sounds at Chile Pepper fest

Hot, hot, hot!: Drag queen Shaquanda Coco Mulatta showed off a bottle of her eponymous hot sauce.
Photo by Trey Pentecost

This festival packed the heat!

Thousands of spicy-food fans filled the Brooklyn Botanic Garden on Saturday for its 26th-annual Chile Pepper Festival, where the event’s pairing of zesty cuisine with sizzling musical sounds kept attendees fired up all day long, according to a pepper appreciator.

“It was great to come out, enjoy the weather, and experience all the food tastings and great music,” said Katie Ulin, who traveled to the Crown Heights green space from Manhattan with her husband Rudy and 3-year-old daughter Amalia.

More than 40 vendors set up stations inside the horticultural museum at this year’s affair, serving samples of salsas, hot sauces, and spicy sweets including pepper-packed chocolates.

But showcasing products to a crowd of target customers is only one benefit of the festival, according to a condiment maker, who said the yearly event provides entrepreneurs with an opportunity to swap stories and reconnect.

“It’s a community of makers who enjoy spicy food, so there’s also that aspect,” said drag queen Shaquanda Coco Mulatta, who sold her eponymous brand of hot sauce at the bash.

And the festival’s flavor wasn’t contained to cuisine — six musical acts from around the country and world, including Guatemalan reggae sensation Doctor Nativo, Grammy-winning Cajun rockers Lost Bayou Ramblers, and African funk gurus Dahka Band featuring Kheswa, provided a soundtrack for the seven-hour soiree.

The event’s performances are what sets it apart from other similar conventions, which can often draw less laid-back heat seekers, according to another vendor.

“The people at the Chile Pepper Festival are not hot-sauce addicts, but they love it and give great feedback,” said Bintou Ndaw, owner of condiment-maker Nafis Products.

Reach reporter Colin Mixson at cmixson@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4505.
Chile-d out: Katie, Rudy, and Amalia Ulin came all the way from Manhattan to savor the spice at this year’s Chile Pepper Festival at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden.
Photo by Trey Pentecost

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