Here's How The Scovie Awards Were Started

Each year, chefs travel from all over the world to show off spicy recipes and food creations at a festival in Albuquerque, New Mexico. First held in 1988, the Fiery Food Show featured 47 exhibitors feeding sauces and salsas to an estimated 500 attendees (per Albuquerque Journal). Now, more than 20,000 people spill into a local resort and casino to taste products from hundreds of vendors proudly serving up the heat. Entries for the show are accepted for a two-month period each summer, and final judging is held in the fall, after the September state fair, and before the balloon festival begins in October.

The show has gone through a few formats. The general public once cast votes in "The Fiery Food Challenge," but according to Scovie Awards, some questionable polling took place and the contest was retooled. A variety of categories became separated into divisions; sauces, condiments, hot sauces, snacks, seasonings, and even soups and beverages are presented for judges' critique. The judges, mostly food professionals and journalists, do not necessarily know what they are sampling or where it came from, as products are placed in plastic cups and referenced by codes.

Testing the limits of taste buds

In honor of Wilbur Scoville, the man responsible for the Scoville Scale, the renamed Scovie Awards features both a professional Tasting Division and an Advertising and Marketing Division. Within the divisions, there are separate categories for brave judges to participate in: mild to hot and XXX hot. Only those judges who volunteer are placed in the hottest section, with products containing oleoresin capsicum or super hot peppers.

Entries were up more than 50% in the 2022 competition, as reported by the founder of the Fiery Food ShowDave DeWitt, and judges had to sort through over 1,000 products. Each submission was tasted by at least five different judges, and every sample is rated based on appearance, smell, texture, flavor, and use of chili. While the actual judging isn't open to the public, all visitors are welcome to test their own tolerance for heat inside the National Fiery Foods & Barbecue Show,  according to the Scovie Awards.