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Local Spotlight—Hot Pepper Dudes

By Bridget Welch, LMT

A love of fresh and fiery ingredients led to the birth of Tampa-based company, national award winning, Hot Pepper Dudes, LLC.

When spicy food lover Chris Billet couldn't find anything other than jalpeños and habañeros in his local grocery stores and farmers’ markets, he decided to grow his own peppers. Starting in 1999, he experimented with growing hot peppers, and soon he was producing so many, he started learning to can, pickle, and make hot sauces to preserve his harvest.

In 2008, Billet got seeds for ghost pepper (Bhut Jolokia), a native to India said to be the hottest pepper in the world at the time. After creating a delicious sauce, in 2010 he founded Hot Pepper Dudes with Jeff Toothman, who shared Billet’s love for cooking and spicy foods, and his long-time friend John French who enjoyed the sauces so much he's now running the Northeast branch of the business.

“All of the fresh veggies and herbs that go into our products are locally sourced in Florida on the day of bottling so we can be sure the products are of excellent quality. The only item we can't get in Florida is the ghost pepper since there are no local growers,” says Billet. They source their ghost peppers from a wholesaler in San Antonio, Texas.

New Leaf Market currently carries Fire Out the Hole!, Blazed & Abuzed, Gourmet 6 Pepper Relish, and Friendly Ghost in the salsa and barbecue sauce section.

For more information, check out their blog at http://cbillet.wordpress.com/.

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