Brighton chilli connoisseur Jason Stevens on producing fiery sauces under the Burning Desire banner
PUBLISHED: 12:20 12 May 2014 | UPDATED: 12:20 12 May 2014
Set in the heart of Brighton’s busy hustle and bustle is the innovative chilli sauce producer Jason Stevens, the director of Burning Desire Foods.
“I am also the chef, accountant, chilli buyer, online dispatcher, graphic designer and product development,” explains Jason.
Jason started the company in September 2011, exactly one year to the day after winning an award for his flagship hot sauce, the classic Burning Desire, at the Fiery Foods Festival in Brighton. “It felt only right that I named the hot sauce and company after what perfectly describes my passion and love for everything chilli,” says Jason. “As a child I was fortunate enough to live in Africa, Latin America and Caribbean countries, where chillies were part of everyday cooking, so I was introduced to chillies at a very young age. Later, living in Holland, I was introduced to the vast melting pot of various cultures, foods and flavours. My family has always been interested in cooking foods from around the world; I was stirring pasta sauce when I was five, standing on a chair next to my mother.”
It all began for Jason a few years ago when he read an advert for the Fiery Foods Chilli Festival in Brighton; they were looking for amateurs to enter a hot sauce competition. “I thought to myself… I can do this. I’ve always loved cooking and I really liked chillies, I had the ingredients and flavours I wanted to use as I made chilli sauces for my family and friends. What I was looking for was a special something to wow the judges, a uniqueness. The name Burning Desire came to me quickly and from there the sauce developed. While cooking the first batch of this sauce I felt I wanted to bring back the ingredients of traditional British condiment-making with some new and interesting spices. The end product is something I feel very proud of as a great British hot sauce. “After entering the competition, Burning Desire Hot Sauce won first prize and exactly a year later I started the company,” explains Jason.
Three years ago Jason started with just one hot sauce, and now makes a range of 10 split into two categories: The Burning Range for mild to hot and the more extreme chilli sauces under The Dark Side Range. Jason also makes a range of three chilli butters and a growing range of unique spice blends. “I cook the sauces fresh on a weekly basis, which enables me to buy some amazing varieties of chillies grown here in the UK, plus I use a wide range of chillies from mild to extreme from all over the world,” says Jason. “I use about 12 varieties in total, from the Jalapeño to the Carolina Reaper, which at the moment is the world’s hottest chili. My aim is for flavour before heat. Anyone can make a sauce hot, but to create a hot sauce with flavour is my burning desire!”
Last year Jason doubled his production of sauces. “Last year we hit just under 12,000 bottles. That’s 1,800 litres of hot sauce,” says Jason. “The sauces are the biggest sellers but there isn’t just one best- seller: everyone has their own favourite, from the classic Burning Desire, the chipotle hot sauce Burning Temptation, to the extreme hot sauces range including Moruga Scorpion and the latest, the Carolina Reaper.”
The most difficult sauce for Jason to make is the hottest sauce he produces. It is called Five Finger Death Punch, a blend of two of the world’s hottest chillies: the Naga and the Moruga Scorpion. “Just in case that’s not enough heat I added a kick of pure chilli extract rated at 12 million on the Scoville scale. Cooking that sauce has to be done with turbo ventilation,” he laughs. “I don’t grow my own chillies, although I have tried to in the past, I support the UK chilli growers and source as much locally as possible. Certain varieties of chilli are imported from the best sources I have discovered. My personal favorite is definitely the Trinidad Scorpion 7 Pot, which derives its name because one chilli is hot enough for seven pots. Alongside its searing heat it has the most incredible flavour and smell of apricot, pineapple and honey. I love the individual flavours of chillies and this is one that’s always in my fridge.”
This year is going to be very exciting for Burning Desire, with a range of new products coming out in spring, and Jason also plans to expand into a larger kitchen and production unit. The butters made a successful debut last year, as did Jason’s spice range. Both contributed to him being awarded Best UK Hot Chilli Company 2013.
Burning Desire Foods Ltd, 45 Stanford Avenue, Flat A, Brighton, East Sussex, BN1 6GA; 01273 561555; firstname.lastname@example.org