All the way back in 1988, TV host, food historian and author Dave DeWitt created the Fiery Foods Show right here in Albuquerque. It was the first trade show in the nation to concentrate on hot sauces and other spicy delicacies. The first Fiery Foods Show had just 47 exhibitors and 500 attendees. In the intervening 35 years, however, the mouth-watering event moved from hotel ballrooms to the Sandia Resort and Casino, changed its name to the National Fiery Foods & Barbecue Show and set the palates of countless hungry visitors ablaze. The 2023 Fiery Foods Show hits Sandia March 3 though 5. And as longtime chile-heads may be surprised to learn, this is DeWitt’s final year as chief cook and bottle washer.
Fiery Foods has always been a family affair, with DeWitt and his wife, Mary Jane Wilan, incorporating Sunbelt Shows, Inc. to produce the annual event. DeWitt’s niece, Emily DeWitt-Cisneros, eventually joined Sunbelt as associate producer and sales director. But the DeWitts are finally giving their stressed-out tongues a rest. “This is Emily and my last show, as we are retiring from show production,” says DeWitt. Salsa lovers need not worry, however, as Fiery Foods & Barbecue Show will “continue with no major changes” under the new management of Mark Masker, who has served as the longtime editor of DeWitt’s various websites.
Over the years DeWitt has become one of the foremost authorities in the world on chile peppers, spices and spicy foods. In addition to appearances on “The Martha Stewart Show,” “The Today Show,” “Mythbusters” and “CBS This Morning,” DeWitt has penned a string of best-selling books, including The Fiery Cuisines, The Chile Pepper Encyclopedia and The Complete Chile Pepper Book. “I’ve been producing shows for 51 years, including 34 Fiery Foods Shows,” says DeWitt. Although the break from producing food shows is well deserved, the capsaicin-obsessed food lover promises, “I will continue my writing career.”
For now, though, DeWitt is thinking about going out with a bang. “During last year’s Show, people were ready to spice it up after missing a year due to the pandemic,” says DeWitt. “This year is sure to be even hotter.”
More than 1,000 different food, cooking and kitchen products will be on display at the 2023 event. While many exhibitors will display their award-winning selections, others will showcase first-time products. On Saturday and Sunday, outdoor cooking demonstrations will be held on the outdoor patio showcasing Disc-It Cookers and Sidewinder Grills. Attendees can also enjoy select Scovie Award-winning products, recognized as the top fiery food products in the world. The annual competition, organized by the producers of the Fiery Foods Show, is one of the most competitive blind tasting food competitions in the U.S. and receives hundreds of entries each year. “The Scovie Awards continues to grow, an indication of strong new product development,” says DeWitt.
Asked about the trends in spicy foods that are happening right now, DeWitt points out that, “The superheat craze has faded, replaced by more flavorful foods that are hot but not killer.” Even so, the longtime food show producer isn’t exactly worried about people losing their taste for the spicy stuff. “Many national brands have regular and spicy versions of their products,” says DeWitt. “The mainstreaming of fiery foods continues unabated as we see more products in supermarkets and on popular online retailers.”
The Fiery Foods & Barbecue Show takes place Friday, March 3 (trade only 11am to 4pm, general public 4 to 8pm), Saturday, March 4 (trade only 9 to 11am, general public 11am to 7pm) and Sunday, March 5 (trade & general public 10am to 6pm). Tickets are available at the door ($15.50 for adults and $5 for youth ages 11 to 18). For complete info go to fieryfoodsshow.com.