Another industry heavyweight chats to Chilli Magazine. This time we come face to face with a Dragon.
What is your real name?
Clint ‘The Fire Dragon’ Meyer
Hey Clint, can you describe your logo to us, how did it come about?
The story behind the Fire Dragon Chillies name is because I was born the Year of the Fire Dragon in 1976 – my Mum is also a Dragon and her Dad is as well, and he’s just about to turn 92 in 2020!
What were the biggest challenges you faced to get Fire Dragon where it is today?
Probably the amount of time you need to spend on a small business along with having 3 kids and a big property! We have had a pretty good run really with not too many challenges in nearly 12 years of business!
Looks like you’ve juggled it well. What did you do before chilli life, and how did you get into the chilli industry?
I’m actually a printer by trade which gave me the money to do a lot of travel around the World! My last trip was South East Asia and China for a few months before heading to Canada on a one year visa. While there I ended up making my first hot sauce from orange habs which back in 2005 were still considered some of the hottest! Got hooked on the sauce and then travelled through Central and South America which sent my chilli addiction to a new level and I pretty much decided then that I would start to grow chillies and make hot sauce as soon as I got back to NZ. That was late 2005 and I haven’t travelled overseas since! Don’t even have a passport anymore but with all of these Chilli Fests and Chili Eating Comps around the World, that may might need to change in 2020.
Do you know how many varieties of chillies have you guys produced this year?
Around 80-odd but hard to say with the hybrids and mutants etc.
Is there a species you’ve yet to master?
Not that I can think of! Maybe wasabi!
What is the most popular product you have, Clint?
Easily our HOTTEST sauce – the Dragons Fury!!! Pretty much our best seller every month although has been beaten a few times but not many!
Yeah I’m not surprised about that! You clearly enjoy chilli yourself, which is your favourite?
Sure do and that is why we run a chilli business now as once you are addicted to the burn it is hard to give it up! Food just doesn’t taste as good. I would pretty much eat chilli with every single meal I consume. My favourite chilli – that’s too hard to choose but faves would be Peach Ghost Scorpion and Yellow Morugas for the tropical fruitiness and the HEAT! If I wanted something hotter then probably the BBM and 7 Pot Primo developed by the legend Troy Primo of course!
Who are the people behind the company, tell us a bit about your team, who they are and what they do.
Just myself and my family that’s it! Fully run family business. Kids are getting older now too so that should help 😉
We’re at the end of 2019, what have you got lined up for 2020, any new campaigns, investments?
Well yeah, some BIG plans in store for 2020. Actually close to buying the local café and turning it into FDC HQ along with our NZ Hot Sauce Emporium selling sauces from around NZ and possibly the World! I also run the NZ Chilli Eating Champs which is heading into it’s 10th year and now we are also the hosts for the League of Fire Chilli Eating belts coming up so yeah 2020 is going to be very busy and SUPERHOT!
That’s amazing, good luck with all of that! Other than chilli, what’s your favourite ingredient to work with?
Have you got any funny chilli stories?
Ha ha probably too many!!! One of the oldest ones would be back at a 21st over 20 years ago! For some reason there was a bowl of chillies going around and my best mate Carlos grabbed the bowl, we came face to face, grabbed one each and ate it while just staring each other out! Wasn’t too long till we dashed to the kitchen for the milk as at that point it was the hottest thing we’d ever eaten! So after that we offered one guy $100 if he could eat the chilli without crying. He accepted (and he was a bit drunk of course) so he starts on munching and is like “see, sweet, easy as, where’s my hundred?” Nah bro… you got to wait and then BOOM he gets destroyed and his eyes start streaming, slams his beer back along with a heap of milk and then just spewed his ring out in the sink! Maybe not that funny, but man it was at the time! Fast forward about 22 years and we’re about to begin the 10th edition of our NZ Chilli Eating Champs.
What was the last thing you ate that blew your head off?
Probably one of Johnny Scovilles nuts lol. They are CRAZY!!!!
the first to say that Clint, Johnnys nuts seem to have that affect on most
Which hot sauces do you like and why?
The first sauce I really loved was Marie Sharps from Belize while travelling through Guatemala. I came across it and man that was a game changer, it just had so much flavour and great heat from the habs! To be honest pretty much all of the time I will eat only my own sauces! I do try others of course but I guess I’ve made a range of sauces that I like to consume with different foods and there’s no room in my fridge for any others! We do have lots of great small artisan producers in NZ and lots of them will be at our NZ Hot Sauce Festival in Auckland at Sweat Shop Brew Kitchen, in May 30th + 31st 2020.
What are your ambitions within the chilli sector?
One of my dreams was for a World Chilli Eating Champs which funnily enough has just started up this year thanks to League of Fire in the UK. I actually just got the belt which Shahina sent down with Justin Rummel for our chilli season coming up, so belt matches can continue down here while the UK takes a winter break. Pretty exciting times in the competitive chilli eating world right now! We have the first belt match ready to go in Jan 2020 between #TheThunderFromDownUnder and the #NZChilliFillie – it’s gonna be BRUTAL!
Yeah that was a nice touch by Shahina. Which chilli event is your favourite, Clint?
NZ Hot Sauce Festival is my favourite, but the only one I have attended living down in NZ.
What advice could you offer someone wanting to make their own sauces?
Don’t give up your day job straight away and don’t try to go to big too quick! I think the main reason we are we are now is that we have grown naturally from year to year so you have enough chillies to get through and don’t run out and have months to wait till you can get more!
Has anyone famous ever tried your products, where did it happen and what did they think?
Had a few media people in NZ try them over the years and yes Dave Dobbyn once, that was pretty cool and after the very 1st NZ Chilli Champs Final but probably Johnny Scoville or Neil Smith would be the most famous chilli heads.
Where can we find your products?
We ship around the World
Take a shot at these quick-fire questions:
Drink of choice? Pilsner or IPA
Fav meal? Anything spicy!
BBQ sauce or Ketchup? HOT sauce
Fav Band? Rage, System of a Down and Chilli Peppers
Fav Chilli? Peach Ghost Scorpion, Yellow Scorpion Moruga, BBM
Bottle or Jar? Bottle
Korma or Vindaloo? Vindaloo
Romantic meal for 2 or big family feast? Big family feast
Food festival or music festival? Both
Finally Clint, if you could cook for anyone who would it be and what would you make for them?
That’s a tough one but think I’d go Serj Tankian of System of a Down and pretty sure he has a place in NZ, so who knows maybe I should send him down some hot sauce! Tom Morello would be a close second and would probably cook whatever they wanted as long as it has a lot of chilli in it!