Hot and Spicy is fortunate to have been able to get an interview with Jason Grooms, Habanero King. I found Mr. Grooms charming and very willing to share his knowledge of chile peppers with us. It's very obvious that chiles are his passion.
H&S: Jason I know that you are the creator of the website One Pepper Place and I know that is for folks who enjoy hot and spicy foods. What can visitors expect when they visit One Pepper Place?
Jason: I love all aspects of chile peppers; growing, collecting, eating, etc. So I wanted to make a place that people could get info on each of those. I divided it into three sections, gardening, food, and Chile-Heads. In the food section you can find some of my favorite spicy food recipes as well as some tips for cooking, hot sauce reviews, and links to a handful of my favorite food sites. The gardening page has tips and tricks for growing chiles, interviews with gardening experts, stories, how to get free seeds, and my experience finding and growing the rare Galapagos Island chiles. The Chile-Heads section has links, ideas for collectors, sign-up for the OnePepperPlace yahoo group, a Chile-Head quiz and interviews with famous Chile-Heads such as Dave DeWitt. And of course I have links to my e-mail on all pages because I love helping people and answering their chile questions.
H&S: When and how did your love affair with hot peppers start?
Jason: I have loved spicy food for as long as I can remember but it really took off about 7 years ago when I grew my first chile plant. It was an orange Habanero that ended up living on my porch for over two years. I wanted to learn what to do with the peppers I was getting from it so I started researching all about them. I was fascinated and started collecting more and more information and meeting others who love chiles. One day I started looking for information on wild and rare chiles. I was disappointed on how little I found. Most hot and spicy sites are selling hot sauce or high level university stuff. So I decided to try my hand at making a chile site for everyone, hence the name One Pepper Place. Once I made the site I got a lot of responses from fellow heat lovers and I got even more involved. Now I work with Chilli Heads International, have dozens of chile plants in my garden, a collection of about 100 hot sauces, and full on passion for spicy foods. So I guess you could say it started with a single habanero and I was hooked.
H&S: Does your wife share your enthusiasm for chili peppers and spicy foods?
Jason: I have had to grow her into it. At first she thought spicy was the packet of hot sauce at Taco Bell. Now I have her hooked on a few brands of fiery hot sauce and she can't get enough of my special Desert Venom Chili. Most of the chile-head stuff in the house is just me, but she loves reaping the benefits. I think she's a closet Chile-Head though. She even wrote an article for the site called "You might be married to a chile-head if." She also went into labor with our last daughter after a lunch of pizza with copious amounts of Louisiana hot sauce. (Although she refused to let me name her Louisiana.) (smiling)
H&S: Louisiana Grooms? mmmm (laughing), I think I'll let that one pass. Tell me, who does the cooking in your house? Or do you share this chore?
Jason: I absolutely love to cook and would be happy doing it all day. It's not always spicy though. I love to look for new and exotic recipes and try them out with my own twists. But I would have to say that due to lack of time I don't do every night. We are about 80% me/20% her in that category. If my wife had her way I would do it every night. She loves my cooking. That's how I won her parents over oh so many years ago. They were floored that a 20 something kid could cook so well.
H&S: Jason you call yourself the Habanero King. How did you come to choose that particular name? Why not the Chili King or another pepper?
Jason: As I said before the first chile I grew was an orange habanero and ever since then I have had an affinity for that particular type. They make great sauce and I love the fruity quality that other chiles don't have. My favorite home made sauce is a mango, papaya and habanero sauce. There is nothing better on a cheese quesadilla. On top of that the habanero has the reputation of being the king of peppers, at least in the heat category anyway. Someone did ask me once how can I be sure you really are the King of Habaneros? I told him, "When I sit on my throne (lawn chair) none of my subjects (my chile pepper garden) ever complained. You can ask them yourself."
H&S: (laughing) I just love your response. Well, I will take your word it. Does the Habanero King have a special or signature recipe? And are you willing to share it?
Jason: Absolutely. I never did believe in keeping recipes a secret. I want people to enjoy these things as much as I do and I have never turned down a request for my secret recipe.
H&S: That's unusual and very generous.
Jason:I have two favorite recipes: My Caribbean Sunfire sauce and Desert Venom Chili. Both can be adjusted for your heat tolerance, but as is they pack a nice punch.
H&S: Those recipes sound very hot and very, very delicious. I must try both of them. Jason, I understand that you are the Southeast Regional Coordinator for a group called Chili Heads International. Who are the Chili Heads and what does being the regional coordinator entail? Southeast covers a lot of territory - it must keep you busy.
Jason: CHI is a great group that has received a lot of international attention including endorsement by some biggest chile heads including the Pope of Peppers, Dave DeWitt. They are an incredible group of people that volunteer all of their time to making this organization work and to make it have a real impact on charities around the world. It helps people get together to share their love of chiles with monthly meetings and hot luck dinners. But the great thing is that it's more than just a club for chile heads; it's also a charity organization. Once a year local groups hold a chile or spicy food festival to raise money for the charity of their choice. It was started in Australia (the second biggest chile head country) but quickly spread to a lot of other countries including the US. My job as Southeast Regional Coordinator isto help people get together to form their local groups (called pods), to help coordinate the festivals, and to raise awareness by working with restaurants, hot shops or other vendors. It does keep me busy, especially lately. I have been working with the National Coordinator on some new marketing campaigns for the entire country. We are currently working on getting the US membership numbers up right now.
H&S: They sound like a dedicated and ambitious group. I think it's wonderful that they can get together to enjoy what they love most and still take time to give to the community through their favorite charities. Jason you are obviously an expert on chili, etc. Have you ever written any articles for magazines?
Jason: A few. I try to write most of my articles for One Pepper Place but I sometimes branch out every so often. I have had articles published in Aji Magazine, the Charles Darwin Foundation newsletter and I'm working on one for Fiery Foods magazine. Part of thereason I created One Pepper Place was my frustration at not being able to find good chile and spicy food information all in one place, so I made my own. So I try to put all of the research, articles, and interviews I do on the site.
H&S: A little birdie tells me that with everything else you do, you are currently working on your Masters Degree as well. Is this true?
Jason: I sure am. And it's harder than I anticipated. My time is at an all time premium right now. I'm getting my Masters in Education and Training while trying to get my new training consulting business (www.TPS-Florida.com) off the ground, raise a family, keep up on a website and get a new international organization going in the US. Sometimes I wonder how I get it all done. But it is all work of love, so it never really seems like work. That's why I started my own business. I wanted to work on myterms and do it for the right reasons, not for a corporate bottom line. I still get quiet stress-free time in my garden though. If it ever starts to get to me I sit in my greenhouse and work on my chiles or I dig into the fridge and cook something new. I've always gone with the saying "Do what you love and you'll never work a day in your life."
H&S: I wholeheartedly agree with you about that Jason. Before we close our interview would you please give me the URL's for One Pepper Place and Chili Heads International to share with our readers.
Jason: My site is www.onepepperplace.com The Chilli Heads site is www.chilliheadsintl.com. An American Chilli Heads International site is in the works and will be coming soon. I encourage everyone to check out both and send in any feedback you have.
H&S: Jason thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to speak with me. I wish you continued success.
I have not yet had the chance to try these recipes but I will do so for sure. They both sound delicious.
Mr. Grooms contacted me later to let me know that we can visit CHI and One Pepper Place at Cafe Express to purchase chile pepper merchandise. He tells me that all procedes will go to the Chile Heads International charity fund. Chiliheads