Our ‘Chilli_Mama_Bird’ Bree Rek chirps away with Tony Burridge from Budgies Jerky
What is your real name?
Lennard Anthony Burridge. I was named after my Grandfather, but have always been called Tony or Budgie. I’ve had lots of people looking very confused at times.
“What’s your name”
“ What’s your middle name?” Anthony
“Tony Anthony Burridge”
No. Lennard Anthony Burridge
“ Where does Tony come from?” OMG Really?
Haha! So that we can identify your products, can you describe your logo to us, how did it come about?
Well, Its a picture of a Budgie with a piece of my Beef Jerky in his mouth, perched on a branch, with cows, grazing in a nice green paddock in the background. My youngest son did some editing for me and that was the end result. I’m very happy with how it turned out. Just how I wanted it.
Who’s a clever boy!
Tell us Tony, what were/are the biggest challenges you faced to get your products/brand where they are today?
In the beginning , it was drying times of each flavour. Some dry differently than others, so that was a challenge to remember them all. Yes, with 13 flavours at the time, I probably should have just written them down, but that wouldn’t have been any fun, would it!?
Apart from my baseline flavours, it is hard to keep the different levels of heat, consistent. I use my own fresh chilli’s when I can, and bought ones from various chilli companies and individual Chilli heads, so the heat levels of the pods do vary quite a lot, making it hard to make separate batches, the same heat.
Lack of sleep when trying to make enough Jerky, in the time I have off from work. Postage prices to overseas customers!
Yeah that’s not ‘cheep’! When did you become involved in chilli life, were you born into it, or what did you do before? Where did your passion for chilli growing stem from?
I have always liked the heat of chilli, but I don’t like Capsicum. I remember when we were living in Darwin when I was 4-5 years old. There was a Chinese man that gave my mother a Satay recipe as payment for helping him cut up 80kg of lamb for a school fete. Anyway, I remember sitting there, eating Satay skewers, one after the other, with sweat pouring down my face. I just couldn’t stop eating them even though they were quite hot! I don’t remember how hot they were in comparison to a type of chilli, but I don’t think anyone else in my family liked them that hot. Since then, I have tweaked the recipe to suit my Jerky.
I make my Jerky on my days off – I am a Concretor and work long hours, 2 weeks on / 1 week “off” and I make as much Jerky as I can in those 6-7 days. I usually start with around 50kgs of beef, then turn it into jerky.
This is only my second year growing chillies. They are growing quite well and I still have the majority of the plants I started with. I overwintered them all and they are doing fine today.
*Update* We just experienced over a week of temps in the mid to high fourties. Some plants are finding it hard to deal with that sort of heat. Haven’t lost any yet, just some leaves at this stage.
One plant looked completely fried. All the leaves were burnt and crispy. Four days later, it had new growth sprouting from a number of places! One tough plant. It may punish me when it gets some pods. It’s an unknown variety.
I have just planted a lot of my plants into a raised garden bed that I built. That is protected from the harsh conditions. I still have some that are exposed to the elements, but are doing well.
Good luck Tony, that kind of heat is a real challenge. Since you started, what major changes have taken place in the business?
I’ve been making Jerky for around 10 years now. Was a lot of trial and error, but the only problem I really had, was working out a dehydrating time. I knew the texture that I wanted, but took quite a few attempts before I was happy with that side of it. I was happy with the flavours, but the first time I ever made it, it was so dry! Tasted really nice but was very, very dry. Since then, I think I have sorted that problem out. I also make Chicken Jerky in 4 flavours and Kangaroo Jerky in 16 flavours.
How many varieties of Jerky have you guys produced this year? Or a ball-park figure of how many units you sell?
I make 16 Flavours of Jerky, 5-6 of them I make in various levels of heat. Ranging from mild, to ridiculously hot. My Jigsaw jerky has actually saved a mans life.
Wow! tell us more about the life saving bit…
He ate some of my Jigsaw Jerky and his heart rate skyrocketed (probably because he panicked). Anyway, he went to hospital and because his heart rate was elevated and he was sweating profusely, the doc ran some tests. He found that the guys main artery to his heart was 90% blocked. It wasn’t a matter of “If” he was going to have a heart attack, It was a matter of “when”. He hasn’t eaten Jigsaw since that occasion, but I have heard that he has recently said “ tell him to bring it on”, to one of my mates. Should I?
Probably not. With regards to growing, and those harsh conditions, is there a species you’ve tried to produce but are yet to master?
Because I have only been growing chillies for around 2 years, I am still a beginner but will be crossing some when I get a bit of spare time. I haven’t really had much trouble growing them, apart from Aphids, Mites and extreme temperatures, but we live in Australia don’t we, so come to expect it every year and take steps to help our babies thrive. In time, I plan to at least try to cross some and make them my own. We will see I suppose.
What is the most popular product you have?
That would be Blueberry BBQ, with Satay catching up fast. BBQ would be a close third and the rest are on an even par with each other.
Do you enjoy chilli yourself? Which is your favourite a) to eat and b) to grow?
I haven’t really eaten Pods as I hate the taste of Capsicum. I have only ever eaten 2 pods. A Red Carolina Reaper and a Yellow Reaper. Both of which I grew last year. I have eaten lots of chilli in meals, but I don’t know what they were and they were cooked. I am growing around 80-100
varieties and will taste each of them at least once. Im sure I will find some that I will like the flavour of. At the moment, Jigsaw would be my favourite to grow. I know that will change this year
because I have quite a few special seeds that I am germinating at the moment. They were given to me by a few very generous Chilli-heads that I have met over the last year or so. I also won a competition for most likes of a chilli pic. Prize was 5-6 varieties of chilli seeds. There are so many different varieties out there.
Who are the other people behind the company, Tony?
For the last 10 years, I do everything that is involved in making my Jerky. From cutting the meat, right through the process to printing my labels and packing it all. A lot of very strict taste testing went into them.
The Budgie’s flying solo then! Have you got any exciting plans for 2020, new campaigns, investments?
Not telling! Yeah, I have some plans for 2020. I’m going to try and showcase some of the Artisan
Chilli Sauces out there. I will make some Jerky as per usual, but, I will use various sauces through the year, and I will acknowledge the maker by adding the sauces name to my Jerky’s name. I’ve just tried my BBQ and put some of Luke Dicketts *Bacon Chilli Jam * on top. It was very nice. I sent him a few packs to try and will send him a few more when I make a limited edition batch.
Other than chilli, what’s your favourite ingredient to work with?
Blueberries, Steak and various Artisan Sauces from all over Australia and New Zealand, actually, it’s World wide now. There are some amazing flavours from some brilliant pairings of certain fruits, vegetables, herbs, spices and Chilli. Some combinations that you think would never go together, actually do compliment each other.
Have you got any funny chilli stories?
Haha. Too many. There is one guy (we will call him Thomas so that he doesn’t get embarrassed)
He was at an Irish club in a town that may or may not be called Whyalla. He ate some Jigsaw Jerky. Went to the loo to wash the capsaicin off his hands. (But, the jigsaw oil had other plans ) Did what he had to do, then went back out to have a drink. Within a minute, he was in intense pain down below. His car was outside but, he couldn’t drive because of the pain, so had to get a taxi, crying and swearing all the way home. One wash just isn’t enough! I think he was one of the first to join my unintentional Facebook group that I now call Budgies Club! Now there are well over 20 “members” . They probably don’t want me to name them all, so I wont. Not now anyway. Will I Andrew? There is also a similar group for the Ladies isn’t there Tiff! I don’t need to explain that one.
Ouch… Just ouch! What was the last thing you ate that blew your head off?
A Blueberry Reaper Sauce I made. Way too many Reapers. Lol
There’s loads of amazing artisan chilli sauces out there (and some real mass-produced crap), which ones do you like and why?
I like most of the sauce from the small batch makers that I have met through various chilli groups on Facebook. Some are amazing. I try to use them in my Jerky whenever I can. Generally the hotter ones, to give my Jerky a different type of kick, or a particular flavour.
Are there more things you want from your products?
I have only just started. I’m going to be here for a long time and I am going to make my Jerky known worldwide!
Do you have other flavours or ideas in the pipeline?
Of course I do. Working on a couple now. Deep Fried Jerky. You will find out what they are when I release them.
Briefly, where can we find your products?
Budgies Jerky Facebook
Budgies Jerky Instagram
Tony Burridge Facebook
Text or Call 0418982346
Email : BudgiesJerky@gmail.com
Hopefully one day it will be in shops near you.
Do you visit any chilli festivals?
Not as yet, but I plan to do so in the near future.
Has anyone famous ever tried your products, where did it happen and what did they think?
That I know of, the Captain from MKR fame, tried some Scorpion I think. He said it was nice and he
liked it. I have my mate Jamie “Kirkuleez” Kirk to thank for that. Onya Mate special batch soon.
Milk or Beer? Rum
Salad or roast? Roast for tea, salad for lunch
BBQ sauce or Ketchup? Whats Ketchup??
Kylie or Metallica? Seriously??? Cant believe this is even a question!! Kylie could always come with me to seethem.
Habanero or Scotch Bonnet? Habanero. Haven’t tried Scotch Bonnet yet. Have some plants growing now, so ask me again nextyear.
Bottle or Jar? Depends whats in them
Peri-Peri or Piri-piri? Are they Aussie towns? Haven’t heard of them.
Korma or Vindaloo? If they are like Hot beef, lamb or chicken curry, I like!
Romantic meal for 2 or big family feast? Just a nice quiet meal would be lovely
Food festival or music festival? Both combined as I find it very hard to choose between them.
Finally, if you could cook for anyone who would it be and what would you make for them?
My Chilli Queen. Satay Beef or Chicken, with rice and veggies or Roast Pork and Roast veggies with my special gravy.