Bree Rek gave A.E.C.C. Chilli Magazine‘s famous ‘Talking To’ treatment. Meat, marinades, markets and Merlot all covered off.
What is your real name?
So that we can identify your products, can you describe your logo to us, is there a story behind it – how did it come about?
Our logo gets a great deal of comments, we have people asking us this same question a lot. Our distinctive logo was designed by one of my sons best friends “Patrick Skelton” at the young age of 16. I gave Patrick the idea that I had in my head, then 2 days later I was blown away with his creation. Our logo is a skull with the Union Jack in the left eye socket & the Southern Cross in the right eye socket to represent our Australian flag, in the background is a wall of flames with 2 chillies crossed (Like in a skull & crossbones design). Finally, our company name is in “Old English Font” in a circle around our skull & chillies in yellow & outlined in red.
Tell us Rob, what were the biggest challenges you faced to get your products/brand where they are today?
The biggest challenge that I have faced is not a nice one. After winning numerous awards for our products, I was approached by another company to make 3 chilli infused salts for them & sign a five year confidentiality agreement. After declining this offer, I received threatening text messages from this person. This put me into a state of depression, but after seeking medical treatment for my depression, I was back & turned the negativity into my personal goal to succeed. Now, we have numerous stockists, distributors & customers that love our products & fill orders worldwide.
That’s an awesome mindset, congratulations. 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?
My first encounter with chilli came about at the age of 17, I was working for a large telecommunications company & my boss used to have fresh chillies every day with his lunch. I asked if I could try one, it was from that day that my love of chilli was born. I spent over ten years in the hospitality industry & this is where I picked up my passion for cooking. I then left this field & started my own window & pressure cleaning business which I did for 20 years. The constant looking up & working with my hands above my head resulted in me requiring spinal surgery on my neck. My surgeon strongly advised me to find alternative employment, otherwise I would be requiring fusions in my neck. While recuperating after surgery, I was watching a Jamie Oliver DVD on chilli where he made some chilli salt. It was at this moment I wanted to start up a chilli condiment business & “Australian Extreme Chilli Condiments” was born. My passion for “Superhot” chillies was introduced to me in 2012 when our family went to the Sawtell Chilli Festival. It was here that I bought my first seriously hot chillies from Ross & Karen Bailey of Bayleaf Herb & Chilli Nursery, they still provide all my seedlings to this day.
Since you’ve started, what major changes have taken place in your business and were they strategic, commercial or enforced for reasons geological, cultural, ethical, ecological, political for example?
The major changes that have been made were brought about by listening to our customers. When we first started the business, we had one chilli infused salt & 2 chilli infused sauces. That list of products has now grown to 5 chilli salts, 8 chilli sauces & 9 bbq rubs. The biggest change came about last year, after high demand for our products. We now have exclusive local growers Mike & Shelley growing our chilli plants, all seedlings supplied by Karen & Ross. This decision was one that took much deliberation between our family. Unfortunately due to my long hours in the commercial kitchen & attending different events etc, I don’t have the time needed to nurture our own plants anymore. Our growers have a wealth of knowledge about soil & the perfect growing conditions to supply us with the hottest & most flavoursome chillies for our needs.
As a chilli magazine (selfishly) do you know how many varieties of chillies have you guys produced this year? Or a ball-park figure of how many units you sell? (Readers love a big numerical stat).
That’s a great question! We use 7 main strains of chillies in our products. Birdseye, Frezno, Habenero, Fatalii, 7 Pot, Moruga Scorpion & Carolina Reaper. Going on last years figures (Being January at the moment), we sold approximately, 190kg of chilli infused salt. 1250 litres of sauce. 110kg of bbq rubs.
Great numbers Rob! Is there a species you’ve tried to produce but are yet to master?
Yes, there is one strain I have had endless trouble growing. The humble Habenero is my one chilli I have had endless trouble with, for some reason I just can’t master this strain.
What is the most popular product you have?
We have several very popular products, but the one that really stands out is our “R.C BURNER” sauce, followed closely by our “BLUSHIN BERRY” sauce. This is a delicious Worcestershire style sauce, very popular with restaurants & the home cooks. “R.C BURNER” won “Best Medium Heat Worcestershire Sauce” in Australia & New Zealand at the “Mr Chilli Awards 2016”. The original base recipe came from my dear friends Rick Ryan & Cathy Gilbody (This is what the R.C stands for), the original recipe was Cathy’s Great, Great Uncle that dates back to around 1895 in Glasgow, Scotland. The sauce is delicious on bacon & eggs, poached or scrambled eggs, on top of or marinade a steak, bangers & mash, mixed grill oysters kilpatrick, marinating beef jerky, a splash in Dianne sauce, soup or stew & awesome in a Bloody Mary drink.
Which is your favourite chilli, Rob?
I absolutely love chilli, I have chilli of some form with pretty much every meal I have. My all time favourite chilli is the “Yellow Fatalii” a step up from it’s relative Habenero, with a SHU of around 500,000 it has a delicious citrus flavour with a great amount of heat that doesn’t spoil the flavour of your meal & gets you coming back for more. The Fatalii is a prolific fruiter & a wonderful crunchy texture.
Who are the people behind the company, tell us a bit about your team, who they are and what they do.
My beautiful wife Rachel, hand makes all our A.E.C.C apparel including Chef aprons, bandannas and Tea-towels. Rach is also the book keeper & looks after the accounts, helps out at events & so much more. Rach is pretty much the backbone of the business. Our 2 children Jordan & Sophie help label & pack stock, also help out at events & markets. I hand-make all our products, bottle them, also label when I need to. I am in charge of quality control & doing events & markets, putting internet orders together, running of chilli eating competitions at different events including insanely hot sausages, meatballs & chicken wings that are all handmade by myself (Except the sausages) our “Bad Boy Bangers” are made by my mate Griffo at “Griffo’s Gourmet Meats” in Nabiac with my ingredients that are added to his delicious sausage mix. The whole family have extensive knowledge of all our products. Together, we are the family team that is “Australian Extreme Chilli Condiments”.
Have you (and the team) got any exciting plans for 2020 – new campaigns, investment?
2020 we will be releasing several new products to our existing range. We plan on attending a lot more events & markets this year, including the Sydney suburbs & getting more involved in the bbq scene in Australia. We would love to take a trip across to Western Australia & do a few events over there, not to mention all our local events & markets. Also promoting our products to more restaurants.
Other than chilli, what’s your favourite ingredient to work with?
I love cooking with spices at home, for example I love making all our Indian influenced meals from scratch. In saying that, I mean using all the individual spices to make different curry pastes & marinades. One of my favourite individual ingredients to cook with is garlic, you can’t beat the additional flavour profile this humble ingredient adds to so many different dishes.
Gotta love garlic! Have you got any funny chilli stories, Rob?
I have many funny stories, but this one remains in my mind as one of the funniest. I attended a bbq event in Gloucester NSW, these 2 enormous motorbike riders came up to our stall & asked to try our hottest sauce (Where’s The Dunny Directors Blend), I explained that it is made from the worlds hottest chilli (Carolina Reaper) & contains 9,000,000 SHU extract in it & takes around 2 minutes to creep up. The two giants both said “Bring It On”, I nervously put a sample on a cracker for them both & said “Don’t belt me if it’s too hot”. They laughed & replied “We can handle our heat! So, they put it in their mouths simultaneously & said it’s hot but not that hot…. I once again explained that it takes a while for the heat to kick in, they walked off & went & had a walk through a couple of the bbq competitors stands… Next minute, they both looked at each other & started going red & taking in deep breathes & run into the main bar. I was intrigued as to what they were doing, so I walked inside & these 2 giants are dancing from foot to foot desperately asking the bar staff for milk! I had a chuckle to myself & then walked back to my stand, they came back after they had downed a schooner of milk each, shook my hand & bought a bottle each….
Hahaaa, bless ‘em! What about you – what was the last thing you ate that blew your head off?
2 drops of 14,000,000 SHU crystals that had to be dissolved in alcohol by my good friend Darren Hackett. A group of us chilli-heads caught up for dinner one night & afterwards we tried several different chilli extracts etc. The heat was so intense & we were all blubbering messes at the table… We can look back now & laugh about it immensely, not so funny at the time though! A night I shall never forget!
There’s loads of amazing artisan chilli sauces out there (and some real mass-produced crap), which ones do you like and why?
Obviously I love our products, as we use them in cooking all the time. But here are a few of my favourites. “Brutal Byron Bajun” by Shashemane Exotic Spice Blends. A delicious sauce that has the perfect amount of heat & balanced flavours, great on a chicken & salad wrap or on pork.
“Sweet Chilli & Mint” by Dinosaur Chilli Sauces. An amazing sweet chilli sauce to compliment wedges & goes great with cheeses, leaves a refreshing mint aftertaste with the perfect amount of heat.
Shout out to those guys! Have you fulfilled your chilli dream Rob, or are there more things you want from your products?
We have fulfilled a lot of goals in our five years of business. We have won a multitude of national & international awards for our products. Sponsor The Weber Kettle Club BBQ Team Australia. We don’t want to be the biggest chilli company, we just want to hand produce the best chilli products we possibly can. I enjoy every single part of our business, fulfilling my passion.
Do you have other flavours or ideas in the pipeline?
Yes….. We have 3 new sauces that we are currently working on. 2 mild/medium & 1 even hotter than our current hottest sauce (But still packed with flavour).
Briefly, where can we find your products?
You can find our products on our website, which is www.australianchillicondiments.com You can also order straight from our Facebook Page https://www.facebook.com/RobbosRingStinger/ Also, numerous speciality shops, butchers & distributors across NSW & QLD.
Which chilli event is your favourite?
We’re looking forward to attending a list of events along the eastern seaboard again this year. This year we have the Central Coast Beer & BBQ Festival, Chinderah Chilli Festival, New Zealand Hot Sauce Expo, Smoke In Broke BBQ Festival, Briz Chilli Festival, Sawtell Chilli Festival, Sydney Chilli Festival, Chillogan Chilli Festival, Old Bar Beach Festival, Murphys Creek Chilli Festival, not to mention all our local events & markets. It’s too hard to single out one event, as they are all different. We love interacting with everyone at each event.
What advice could you offer someone wanting to make their own sauces?
Decide what base you want to use, maybe check out a few recipes online to get an idea & then play with that until you have the flavour & heat profile that you like. If you have a favourite fruit for example, use that as your base & build around that with spices, a touch of sugar, vinegar & salt till you are happy with it. Most importantly, give samples to people & get their opinion. There is no point marketing a sauce to the public if you like it & no one else does. Have fun & play with flavours, you can give 20 chefs the same ingredients & not one will taste the same!
Has anyone famous ever tried your products, where did it happen and what did they think?
Yes, Johnny Scoville from The U.S.A has reviewed most of our range of products, in the U.S.A, New Zealand & Australia. These can be found on his YouTube channel, Johnny has nothing but praise for all our products he has tried. Also Chilli Magazine’s own legend – Kendall Stadler – who won the “Best Reviewer” & “Community Spirit Award” at the 2019 “Global Hot Sauce Awards” has reviewed several of our products in The U.S.A, once again these can be found on his “Tasting The Heat” YouTube channel & he loved the balance of flavours & heat. We put flavour before heat & quality over quantity.
Drink of choice? Mineral water with fresh lemon, Red wine.
Fav Meal? Chilli/minted lamb shanks on a bed of mashed potato.
BBQ sauce or Ketchup? BBQ.
Fav music/bands? Being a drummer, I love all genres of music, Disturbed, AC/DC, Angels, Mental As Anything, Simple Minds, INXS, Hoodoo Gurus, Evanescence, P.I.L, Sex Pistols, Dead Kennedys, Billy Idol & lots more…
Habanero or Scotch Bonnet? Scotch Bonnet.
Bottle or Jar? Bottle.
Peri-Peri or Piri-piri? Peri-Peri.
korma or vindaloo? Vindaloo
Romantic meal for 2 or big family feast? We are a tight family, so I have to say family feast. Sorry my beautiful wife…
Food festival or music festival? Food Festival
Finally, if you could cook for anyone who would it be and what would you make for them?
All my friends & family…. I would start with bacon smoked chicken wings & Jalapeno poppers in the smoker for entree, slowly braised chilli con carne for main & mixed berry/apple crumble served with ice cream & “Blushin Berry Sauce” for dessert. Accompanied with a nice glass of Merlot (or two).