Savouring the spice at Heatwave Hot Sauce Expo

By Whitney South, Best of London. 01.21.20  

Who’s ready for a heatwave?

Celebrating another year tempting taste buds in the Forest City, the Heatwave Hot Sauce Expo will once again bring the (delightful) pain with a fiery fiesta set to take over Centennial Hall Saturday, Feb. 29.

Presented by Hot Sauces Unlimited, the event has quickly become popular with hot sauce lovers, previously drawing about 1,000 eager entrants in 2019.

According to organizer Andrew Kitt, for those who savour spice, it’s an experience not to be missed.

“When you say hot sauce, most people think of Tabasco. But that would be a vast understatement on the flavours available at Heatwave,” he explained, adding event producers are all passionate about food, concocting sauces ready to make your taste buds come alive. “Sure, there are sauces that will set your mouth on fire, but there are also sauces that will warm your insides and take your next meal from bland to out-of-this-world delicious.”

Ticketholders who enter the show floor are encouraged to mingle with over 40 unique vendors of spicy sauces, registering on the Scoville heat index from mild to extremely freakin' wild, as well as from sweet to all heat —each promising to make your taste buds pop.

All sauces can be sampled on a spoon — or better yet — along with some chicken wings, while you cruise the aisles. For those not in favour of traditional wings, meatless options will also be on-hand, while many sauces at Heatwave are vegan friendly as well.

With hundreds of offerings available, each as uniquely different as the producers that make them, it can be hard to know where to start. Thankfully, each vendor will be happy to provide guests with the culinary aspects of their sauce, along with a sample.

And the sky’s the limit.

“There are sauces that will change your entire perspective on what your next meal can be,” said Kitt. “Producers blend hot peppers with fruit, vegetables and all sorts of spices combined in original combinations that you haven't tasted anywhere before.”

Recipes range from being influenced by various cultures from the Caribbean to Thai, and Cajun to Canadian — including some that have been passed down through families for generations — containing everything from jalapenos to deadly scorpion peppers, fruits and vegetables such as sweet potatoes, mangos or blueberries. 

Or, perfected with an infusion of spices like garlic, chipotle and cayenne.

No matter what your preference, Kitt maintains there’s a sauce for everyone, regardless of heat tolerance or particular taste. Visitors can even learn to enhance the flavour of just about anything by adding sweet habanero maple syrup to pancakes, jalapeno strawberry jam on toast, or dill pickle ketchup on a hotdog.

“There are so many tasty sauces at the show that it's hard to pick a favourite,” he said with a laugh. “Last year, I had a lot of friends upset with me because when they left Heatwave, they basically spent their rent on hot sauces because they couldn't pass on so many different and delicious flavours that are available.”

In addition to pleasing that pallet, the entertainment will be on fire on the Dawson's Hot Sauce stage where folks can witness the daring Chile Heads compete in eating competitions with raw peppers, extreme hot wings and more, while Mike Jack returns to attempt to set another Guinness World Record for eating extremely hot peppers, and more.

The Heatwave Hot Sauce Expo takes over Centennial Hall (550 Wellington St.) Saturday, Feb. 29.

General Admission Tickets are $8 in advance (or $10 at the door), while entry along with a pound of chicken wings is $20.

For more info, or to purchase tickets, visit

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