Bob Sheridan, Co-Creator of the Hottest Chili in Knoxville

Were you going for "best chili" at the East Tennessee Chili Cook-Off to benefit Second Harvest?

Our goal was to win "hottest."


Our team of four, sponsored by Vulcan Materials, myself and Marty Black, Joe Boyd, and Julie Perrin. To be very honest, we made hot and regular chili, and had the hot behind the counter—it was a sideline. But everyone who came up, that's what they wanted. We ended up converting 50 percent of the regular chili to hot. A lot came back for more. People must love pain.

How much of your secret can you share?

I can tell you pretty much all of it: ghost peppers, which are Indian, and supposed to be the hottest pepper on earth. They are a million units on the Scoville scale [which measures the heat of chile peppers in multiples of 100]; twice as hot as habaneros.

Did you grow them?

No, I ordered from a company that supplies them, I can't remember the name. We also threw in a little habanero milled to 40 microns to give the chili a kicked-up flavor. It's almost like a dust, if you breathe in the air it makes you sneeze.

Are you going to try hottest again next year, or move on?

We may attempt to improve on flavor and heat, and we'll probably try to go for best chili in Knoxville next year. Of course, I think we had it anyway this time.

Do people have to sign a disclaimer before sampling your chili?

We did not make 'em, no, but we did put up a pretty strong warning.

And the ghost peppers, they take a little while to work?

Yes, you can take a nice big bite and go into the second one before heat comes up the back of your throat and sets your head on fire.