Feeling The Burn: Sampling The World's Hottest Peppers (Transcript) | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio

Transcripts

Feel the Burn: Sampling the World's Hottest Peppers

MS. REBECCA SHEIR

14:08:56
So given today's theme, not only are we going to feel a little heat, we're going to taste it, too.

MR. TOM ELDER

14:09:01
One of my cooks in the kitchen took a little bite off the tip of one. She goes, this is nothing. I'm like, oh yeah? She goes, yeah. And so she took another bite and she's sweating and her eyes are all watered up and nose is running and it's, like, they are hot.

SHEIR

14:09:17
This is Tom Elder.

ELDER

14:09:18
I'm the executive chef of Harth restaurant here at the Hilton McLean in Tyson's Corner.

SHEIR

14:09:23
He helped open Harth, just a few months ago. And that culinary firecracker his cook consumed was actually from the chef's organic garden, behind the hotel where you'll find tomatoes, raspberries, herbs, different kinds of mint. And how about these peppers? Where are the peppers?

ELDER

14:09:36
Then the -- last, but not least are our hot peppers. And if you can see, we have little signs out here.

SHEIR

14:09:42
That says caution.

ELDER

14:09:43
Yeah, we have caution. If you get up close, you can read them. But it's, like, you know, only the chef should touch these peppers.

SHEIR

14:09:49
Because as the signs also indicate, all of the peppers planted in our garden have the potential to cause pain and or discomfort upon contact.

ELDER

14:09:58
Right. You got to be careful.

SHEIR

14:10:00
And here's why. See, you measure the hotness of peppers using the scoville scale, named for American pharmacist Wilber Scoville. The more scoville units something has, the more heat it packs. And going by that scoville scale...

ELDER

14:10:12
I'd say we have, for sure, six of the hottest peppers in the world out here.

SHEIR

14:10:16
Including the very hottest pepper, i.e., the one that made Chef Elder's cook totally freak out, the ghost chili.

ELDER

14:10:23
When we first starting reading up on the ghost chili and that they had articles on, they said the heat of the ghost chili is similar to drinking battery acid with shards of glass. Like, that's a descriptive that we had. And it's like, what?

SHEIR

14:10:35
Okay, yeah, that does sound rather dramatic, but here's the thing. If you measure the ghost chili on the scoville scale...

ELDER

14:10:40
It registers right around one million scoville units.

SHEIR

14:10:44
And just to give you an idea of what that means...

ELDER

14:10:46
A jalapeno is right around 4,500 scoville units.

SHEIR

14:10:51
So there you go. Chef Elder's other hot peppers include -- and you got to love some of these names, Trinidad scorpions and devil's tongues.

ELDER

14:11:00
Which are right around 800,000.

SHEIR

14:11:02
The ships crowns.

ELDER

14:11:03
Which are right around 600,000 to 700,000.

SHEIR

14:11:06
Then you have the peppin (sp?) .

ELDER

14:11:07
It's like a white little cherry pepper, but it's registering somewhere around 600,000.

SHEIR

14:11:13
And several types of habaneros.

ELDER

14:11:15
Which are right around 400,000 to 600,000, somewhere around in there.

SHEIR

14:11:19
At Harth, Chef Elder peppers various menu items with peppers, from soups to ketchup to a new work in progress.

ELDER

14:11:26
We're developing our hot pepper marmalade.

SHEIR

14:11:29
Which includes another ingredient the chef doesn't exactly grow on the premises, though he does cultivate it just 20 yards from the garden, actually, up on the roof with a little help from these guys.

SHEIR

14:11:40
Honeybees. Oh my, there's, like, thousands of bees.

ELDER

14:11:44
Each hive will average anywhere from 10 to 30,000 bees. So, literally, I could have 120,000 bees up here right now on the low end and then up to 200,000 bees. Just out of four hives.

SHEIR

14:11:56
And when it comes to making honey in those four hives...

ELDER

14:11:58
Bees produce the most honey and are the most active the hotter the weather is.

SHEIR

14:12:04
So talk about feeling the heat. During a sweltering summer like this one, Chef Elder's bees have been going like gangbusters.

ELDER

14:12:10
My friend out in California calls me and he gets mad because he sees we have these 90-100 degree days. And he's like "You're making honey. I'm jealous. I can't believe it."

SHEIR

14:12:19
Now, of course, bees make honey from nectar which they collect as they pollinate flowers. And in the case of the bees up here on the roof, would these bees pollinate your pepper plants?

ELDER

14:12:29
Absolutely.

SHEIR

14:12:30
So you have yet another connection between Chef Elder's heat-loving bees and heat-packing peppers. The bees pollinate the peppers to make honey. You combine the peppers and honey to make that hot pepper marmalade and what's more...

ELDER

14:12:41
Okay, let's go ahead and get a glass of milk and we'll get some bread. We can do some honey. We'll get some honey.

SHEIR

14:12:47
The honey acts as an excellent chaser.

ELDER

14:12:49
The heat busters, we call them.

SHEIR

14:12:52
When you're about to taste...

ELDER

14:12:53
You ready for that?

SHEIR

14:12:54
Okay.

ELDER

14:12:55
Okay.

SHEIR

14:12:55
The hottest pepper in the world.

ELDER

14:12:58
Don't get too nervous.

SHEIR

14:12:59
See, Chef Elder makes this ghost chili paste. It's just a tiny little dab.

ELDER

14:13:03
No, you want a big chunk, right?

SHEIR

14:13:04
I want -- so I'm about to find out -- I want to live to actually hear this story on the air -- exactly what one million scoville units feel like. Okay, down the hatch. To be honest, not much happens after the first bite. I'm not feeling the battery acid or the shards of glass.

ELDER

14:13:19
Because I gave you a little tiny taste to get you going on this.

SHEIR

14:13:23
But after the second...

ELDER

14:13:24
And then, see how it's a little bit hard to breathe?

SHEIR

14:13:26
It is a little bit hard to breathe. It isn't so much battery acid and glass as just plain fire.

ELDER

14:13:33
There's this whole heat all over. It's not the kind of heat that you expect, but it continues to build, it doesn't go away.

SHEIR

14:13:40
Though, admittedly the honey does help. Oh, that's beautiful.

ELDER

14:13:42
You see how -- that's real -- that's real honey.

SHEIR

14:13:45
As do the bread and milk. Oh, that's the perfect way to end this. The cold milk.

ELDER

14:13:49
All right.

SHEIR

14:13:50
Executive Chef Tom Elder says his hot peppers have been a hit at Harth, especially among people who crave the endorphin rush brought on by super spice, including the chef himself. Whereas I taste two dabs of ghost chili paste, he downs two big clumps.

ELDER

14:14:05
Do you see me? I'm sweating.

SHEIR

14:14:06
You're sweating.

ELDER

14:14:07
I did -- there's nothing I can do about it. It just happens.

SHEIR

14:14:10
And this hot cooking, honey making, heat seeker wouldn't have it any other way. To see pictures of executive Chef Tom Elder's pepper garden and to see photos of both of us wearing those big spaceman bee suits and collecting honey up on the roof, visit our website, metroconnection.org.
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