Submit Your Spicy Food Entries For a Chance To Win an Award


Spicy Food Productions

Is pleased to welcome back “CaJohn” Hard as the “Senior Product Consultant” in the Fiery Food Challenge.

CaJohn’s product knowledge takes the FFC to a new level of excellence. CaJohn and the ZestFest team ensure that all products entered in the Challenge have been placed in the correct category and follow the guidelines of the competition’s rules.

CaJohn has won over 400 awards in National, International, and Regional competitions; 79 Golden Chiles, and over 100 other Fiery Food Challenge awards.

Have a question for CaJohn about your product? Email him at

The Fiery Food Challenge

Kicks off ZestFest 2022 and is the longest‑running, most prestigious competition of zesty products in the industry.

Produced by Spicy Food Productions and presided over by independent VIP judges, the Fiery Food Challenge runs Monday through Wednesday, with an Awards Dinner on Friday night.

Winners of the Fiery Food Challenge receive the coveted Golden Chile award and 1st place ribbons. Runners-up win 2nd and 3rd place ribbons, and all winners receive 1,000 award stickers.

The Fiery Food Challenge is a competition that invites hot, “really hot”, spicy and zesty foods, and fiery food-related products to be submitted by those folks vying for the prestigious Golden Chile Award – one of only two “fiery” food awards that stand out in the United States.

The tasting and the judging are “blind” – a number system is used, so judges don’t know whose products they’re tasting. To maintain the integrity of the contest, the people who tally the ballots do not know which company whose scores they have. This competition is for professional food products, and products must be professionally packaged for resale.

Three days of judging take place. There are two sessions daily so the judges’ mouths do not get burned out at the end of the day! There are some really,

Judges gather to challenge their senses and evaluate entries in the following categories:

  • Consumer Ready (Open and serve)

  • Cook-Off (Used in mixed or cooked application)

  • Marketing (Submitted on art board)

  • Best New Product (New to market after Jan 1, 2022)

The Golden Chile awards are presented on Friday night – and those winners will display their prizes on Saturday and Sunday so ZestFest 2022 attendees can sample the spice and zest that won the Golden Chile!

ZestFest attendees on Saturday can take part in the People’s Preference Awards – by doing their own taste tests and judging the hot, spicy, and zesty salsas, sauces, dips, etc., for themselves. Those awards are announced Sunday morning.

Fiery Food Challenge Rules

September 26th, 27th and 28th 2022
Monday, Tuesday & Wednesday



September 26th, 27th and 28th 2022
Monday, Tuesday, & Wednesday

The Fiery Food Challenge is the longest-running, most recognized, and most prestigious competition judging manufactured products in the zesty food world.

Conceived as a means of recognizing superior products and implemented through a series of blind food tastings by culinary experts, the Fiery Food Challenge has become the industry benchmark.

All entrants must be certified professional manufacturers, following all FDA regulations designated for consumer mass production by a certified kitchen, and/or co-packer. Products must be available for sale by January 1, 2021 to qualify

A copy of your canning license or Federal registration will be required upon entry of the contest. If your product is packaged by someone else, you must submit a copy of your manufacturer’s license or registration. No “home packed” products may be entered. Labels must meet FDA guidelines.

All entrants will submit three (3) samples of each entry unless otherwise noted on the entry form. Your product will be shipped along with the entry form, copy of your license/registration, and full payment of fees to the designated collection site of the contest, and must be received by the entry date to be considered eligible.

You may enter as many products as you like. For instance, you may enter the mild, medium, and hot versions of your salsa, but these count as three separate entries. Products that are submitted in various flavors must have one entry per flavor.

A category is defined as a major grouping of subcategories. Barbecue Sauce, Hot Sauce Condiments, etc. It is not permissible to enter the same product in different categories of the contest. Products may only be entered in one category. For example, a product cannot be entered into a Hot Sauce subcategory, and then again in a Barbecue Sauce subcategory. If your sauce fits in several subcategories of one category, then you may enter it in all that are appropriate. All entries will be reviewed to deem them Category Appropriate.

The Fiery Food Challenge management reserves the right to move products to another category, to create or to split categories as it deems necessary, without notice. All products entered in the Consumer Ready contest will be judged “as is” and will not be mixed or served with any other products before tasting. Unless you are entered into a “Fresh” category, your product should not require refrigeration prior to opening.

If your product is fresh and must be refrigerated, it must be entered in the Fresh Salsa category, unless special permission is granted. Fresh entries must be packaged in dry ice and must arrive at the contest address between the dates specified on the entry form.

All food products entered must be canned or sealed in accordance with standard food and health safety procedures and protocols. The Fiery Food Challenge reserves the right to discard and disqualify any entries that are not properly canned or sealed, according to food and health safety procedures.

Each product must be properly labeled with ingredients listed along with the name of the product. All entries must be carefully packaged. The Fiery Food Challenge will not be held responsible for any damage incurred during shipping.

All rules for entering the Fiery Food Challenge apply to the Cook-Off division, but with the following exceptions. The Cook-Off division includes products that will be judged in a cooked application or in a mixture with other products. For example, this category includes powdered dips that must be mixed with sour cream and grilling sauces which must be tasted on prepared meat. All products in the Cook-Off division will be prepared by culinary professionals using like ingredients, under controlled supervision.

The ingredients that are provided by the contest will be at the sole discretion of the Fiery Food Challenge and preparing chefs. Chile con carne, marinades, and dry seasoning rubs will be made with beef. Jerkseasoning, grilling and finishing sauces, and wing sauces will be made with chicken. Pasta sauce will be served on pasta without any proteins added.

Dip mixes and salsa mixes must be made with dried seasonings/ingredients that are to be combined with sour cream or other ingredients to be eligible for this category. For example: a Consumer Ready salsa or dipping sauce with instructions to mix with cream cheese would not be accepted in this category.

Soup and Stew mixes and Side Dishes must be ready to heat or made with dried seasonings/ingredients with no more than three (3) additional ingredients to be added by the contest. For example: a tortilla soup mix should come with most of the ingredients needed in the mix, but may need to be mixed with water, chicken, and cream from the contest. However, the entrant should not provide a seasoning packet and ask the contest to provide the bulk of ingredients such as fresh vegetables, meats, etc., to complete the entry.

Beverages will be included in the Cook-Off division, as most of these products must be mixed in order to be properly tasted. If your product is a “mix,” you may designate ONE ingredient (alcohol or otherwise) to be supplied by the contest. For example: If you enter a Bloody Mary Mix that needs to be mixed with tomato juice and vodka, you must supply the tomato juice as well as your mix, and the contest will supply the vodka.

The Cook-Off division is conducted by the same chefs, in the same commercial kitchen, at the same time. The Fiery Food Cook-Off is not judged by the preparing chefs but by other culinary professionals.

One sample per entry is required. All labels and logos must be mounted on white art board, with company name and entry category clearly printed on the back. Packaging entries are entered as freestanding pieces. Samples in the marketing division will not be returned.

Products must not have been Marketed after January 1, 2022.

This division recognizes distinguished achievement in the introduction of a new product. Its purpose is to promote the development and marketing of excellent new products. The Best New Product award is based on tasting and a marketing statement provided by the contestant. The marketing statement should describe the product but should not state the company or product name, or appear on company letterhead, as it will still be judged as a blind tasting. The marketing statement must be Fifty (50) words or less.

The Best New Product requires three (3) samples per entry. Entries MUST include a marketing statement of the product in Fifty (50) words or less. Products in the food category will be tasted and judged against this written statement.

The Fiery Food Challenge is not responsible if this written statement is not included in the entry. If the statement is not included, it will adversely affect your final score.

You do not need to enter separately for these awards. If you are entered in any category you are already eligible for the Best of and Overall Grand Prize. This prize is awarded to the single product with the overall highest score in each category and across all categories.

For example: If product “XYZ” is entered in the Hot Sauce-Fruit category and its score is a 50, and the next highest score in the Hot Sauce category is product “ABC” with a 47, then product “XYZ” is the winner of the Best of Category prize. The Product with the highest total overall wins the Grand Champion award.

The judging panel will be made up of food industry professionals, including chefs, restaurant owners, culinary instructors, restaurant owners, culinary instructors, food writers, food manufacturers not entered in the contest, and other industry leaders and professionals. A limited number of judges may be “Chileheads” who have served as judges at other food events such as ICS sanctioned cook-offs and may also include celebrities or media professionals.

All product sampling will be conducted under the strictest of standards using fair, impartial, and blind judging methods.

A subcategory must receive a minimum of three (3) entries to qualify for judging. If a subcategory does not receive at least three entries, the remaining entries will be combined into a “General” subcategory. Management reserves the right to create or delete categories based on the number of product entries.

All staff members of the Fiery Food Challenge, Spicy Food Productions LLC, or ZestFest 2022 will be excluded from judging. The decision of the judges is final, may not be contested, and in no way reflects the opinions of the above organizations.

Products in the Consumer Ready and Cook-Off divisions will be judged on the following criteria: appearance, aroma, texture, flavor, use of heat, overall impression, and compliance for the category.

Products in the Marketing division will be judged on: design, creativity, visual impact, originality, marketability, and overall impression.

Products in the Best New Product will be judged on: appearance, aroma, texture, flavor, use of heat, overall impression, and comparison to marketing statement.

Each food entry is judged in a blind tasting using a numbered cup to represent each entry. Judges are not allowed to see any indication of the brand, owner, or manufacturer of the product. The judges each sign objectivity of judging form that states that should they recognize the brand, owner, or manufacturer of any product by the appearance, taste, aroma, texture, or any other indication, they will excuse themselves from judging the entire category.

Each entry shall be scored on its own merits with a whole number from 1 to 10 with 10 being the highest. No pluses (+), minuses (-), fractions (1/2), or decimals (.5) will be taken into consideration. Each entry must be scored by a minimum of six judges. Score sheets are then tabulated by calculating the total score for each entry and dividing by the number of judging sheets for each product to obtain an overall average score. The total will be carried in two decimal places. If there is a tie after carrying to two decimal places, an additional award will be given and considered a tie for that category. No Smoking is allowed in the judging area.

Beverages and bite-sized snacks such as crackers, cheese, fruit, tortillas are supplied to judges to allow them to cleanse their palates between tastes. New spoons must be used for each entry.

Winners will be announced at ZestFest 2022 at the Fiery Foods Challenge Awards Party on Friday, September 30, 7pm, at Dallas Market Center. Winning products will not be revealed until this time. Upon the announcement of the winning products, the awards will be given to those who are present. For those who are not present, the awards will be shipped to them within one month of the announcements.

Organizers will not be held responsible for lost, stolen, or damaged entries and reserve the right to refuse any product that, in their judgment, may present a health hazard. In any of the categories that are judged visually, the Fiery Food Challenge has the right to decline any product it deems lewd or offensive. It also reserves the right not to list any winning product’s name on the website or in the magazine or any other distribution that it deems lewd or offensive. All declared winners are final. No containers or leftover products will be returned. All entry fees are nonrefundable.

The contest rules have been established for the best interests of all concerned. In the event of necessity, any rule may be altered at the discretion of Spicy Food Productions LLC. In any event, all interpretation of rules and final decisions will rest with the judges. The decisions of the judges are final, binding, and conclusive in all matters.

Any controversy or claim arising out of or related to the Fiery Food Challenge will be settled by arbitration according to the rules of the American Arbitration Association. By signing the entry form, you understand these rules and agree to abide by the decisions of the judges.

No Smoking is allowed in the judging area.

For additional information, contact June DeRousse‑(210) 882‑