Hot stuff from new kid on block
Things are starting to heat up for Paul Smith.
A few years ago the Highland Park resident started experimenting with growing hot chilli plants in his backyard.
Before he knew it he had far more chilli pods than he could ever want and needed to find a way to avoid them going to waste.
The refrigeration engineer started dabbling in sauce making and shared them round his friends.
He says the "lightbulb moment" came when his friends started coming back for more and offering money in exchange.
Mr Smith entered his first competition this year after just 12 months in business.
He was the new kid on the block at the "Mr Chilli" awards for New Zealand and Australian chilli sauce manufacturers.
He came up against entrants that had been in the sauce-making industry for years so he was ecstatic when he took out the top spot in the sweet section for his "Pacific Burn" mango, coconut and habanero sweet chilli sauce.
"It was so awesome to win. I was on cloud nine for a few weeks after the competition and I think I still am," he says.
The lover of hot foods says he has always put chilli sauce on his meals but it wasn't until a friend started growing his own chillies he decided to give it a go.
"I did some research and really struggled to narrow the thousands of varieties of chillies down to the ones I wanted."
Mr Smith's garden is now home to 163 chilli plants of 77 varieties. He grows all his own exotic super hot chilli varieties imported as seeds from the United States, Europe and Australia.
The hottest plant he grows has been clocked at more than two million scoville units, the measurement for gauging a chilli's spice level, and the equivalent to some forms of pepper spray.
Growing chilli might have started off as a hobby for Mr Smith but he says it has quickly turned into an obsession.
"It's the growing side of things I really love. It seemed a natural progression to start a business selling the sauces which helps to off load the abundance of chillies I was producing. As well as subsidise my addiction to growing more and more and justify my obsession to my wife, friends and family."
In conjunction with two other chilli-heads, Mr Smith has also created New Zealand's first Chilli Forum loaded with recipes, growing tips and tricks.
Visit nzchilliforums.co.nz to join the forum or if it's just the sauce you're after go to hotttasschillies.co.nz to see what the hot fuss is about.