CHILLI - you may think you can handle the heat, but until you've figured out where you sit on Dingo Sauce Co's scale of hot sauces, it's likely you're not as tough as you may think.
Established in 2016, Dingo Sauce Co, based in North Fremantle, has become known as a tasty spicy sauce, that depending on which one, could really test your stamina with chilli.
The sauce balances the heat of chilli with complex flavour combinations which are created from sourcing fresh and mostly local ingredients, with perhaps the most crucial being chillies.
A chef by trade with decades of experience under his belt, Dingo Sauce Co founder and owner Leigh Nash has a passion for sourcing local produce and meeting the growers.
A large percentage of Mr Nash's chillies are from the Carnarvon region, known for being a food bowl and haven for chefs and food enthusiasts.
But sourcing from this region was based on a chance meeting with growers Vince Yelash and his father at the Araluen Chilli Festival, Fremantle, which led to Mr Nash being one of the key individual customers for two growers, in particular, the Yelash and Wiggins families.
"Vince said they really wanted to grow chillies and weren't growing super hot chillies at the time," Mr Nash said.
"I collect and organise my own seed bank of chillies and I was able to supply them with seeds to grow super hots in Carnarvon and that was their first experimental year of growing super hot chillies and it was very successful.
"This type of chilli is hard to grow and once you crack the code and grow this chilli well, then you can keep doing the same thing.
"Everyone I know that grows this chilli say they are learning something every year."
One of the main reasons Mr Nash sources from farmers directly is because he has found it benefits both him and growers more.
"I can pay less than what I get it for the markets but I can still pay the farmer more than what they are getting from the market agents, so I am getting a benefit and they are getting a benefit, which they deserve."
Many of the Dingo sauces are infused with different ingredients to give a variety of flavour profiles, such as honeydew melons.
"By dealing with farmers one-on-one, I want to get something different to make sauce with, say honeydew melons and if the usual grower I deal with doesn't grow them, they can put me onto someone who does and that's the kind of community they have up there - they are all keen to help each other out," he said.
Inspiration for Mr Nash's sauces, as well as his cooking, comes from seasonal produce and a desire to showcase it, which prompted a new line of sauces.
While he has his regular staple sauces, he also makes a Seasonal Series which are based on seasonal produce.
"One of the Seasonal Series sauces I make, for example, is the plum sauce, which I make when plums are in season and when it's over, the sauce is gone and people have to wait until the next season kicks in," Mr Nash said.
"This series is only local, so I don't use any produce from other States or imported internationally, it's just local."
When trying one of his sauces, Mr Nash conducts the tasting the same way winemakers do tastings, starting with his mild sauces, Fermented Sweet Chilli, Medium Sriracha, Smoked Sriracha, Mekong Bandit, Korean BBQ, the sugar free Chilli Berry (Seasonal Series), Thai Chilli Jam, Bajan One Drop, Devils Honeydew (Seasonal Series), Super Hot Sriracha and for those that dare, ending with the almost lethal Widow Maker.
Also included in the Seasonal Series is Mr Fong's Plum Bomb, Peach Goblin and Apple and Rocoto.
The best seller and Mr Nash's personal favourite is the Smoked Sriracha, which has a flavour profile of fermented sriracha and smooth, natural smokiness.
Chilli has long been a staple ingredient in Mr Nash's cooking.
Throughout his career he has focussed on cooking modern Asian and South-East Asian cuisine, with chilli making a regular appearance.
It is also a personal favourite of his.
"I eat a lot of chilli and I have come to a point in my career where I want to cook things that I love and cook things that I eat, then I can share that with other people - that's what I love to do," he said.
"It's not for everyone though and I understand that."
Special care has to be taken when handling super hot chillies, particularly Carolina Reapers, which was certified as the world's hottest chilli by the Guinness World Records in 2017.
To give you an idea of just how hot it is, a Carolina Reaper is about 1650 scoville heat units hotter than a jalapeno.
So it's crucial that caution is taken when handling these chillies.
This requires Mr Nash to wear two sets of gloves because the oils are so strong that they penetrate one pair of gloves.
But he has to be even more cautious when blending the super hot chillies with the sauce.
Then when he is washing the pots, Mr Nash is kitted up with a gas respiratory mask, "otherwise it's pretty much like getting sprayed in the face with pepper spray".
"You only make this mistake once - after making my hottest sauce The Widow Maker, I went to wash the pot with hot water and the steam that came up meant I was gone for about 30 minutes," he said.
As Dingo Sauce Co gained traction, in April/May Mr Nash saw another avenue to express his passion for food.
He left his job of 16 years at Vans Cafe, Cottesloe and created Dingo Dining, a catering service that gives people a Dingo Dining experience in their home or for corporate events.
"I'm a chef by trade and at heart so I still wanted to cook and create, I didn't want to be a sauce maker full-time," he said.
Still in its infancy, Mr Nash has already done a few Dingo Dining events for people in their homes, which included six to eight courses.
"It's fantastic - people love to have a restaurant experience in their home," he said.
Dingo Dining has held some private, ticketed events which were so exclusive they had no advertising or social media promotion done beforehand, but feelers were sent out to people who then purchased tickets and were able to invite someone else.
"The whole thrill for me and the people that came is that no one knows what they're eating, they know it's going to be my modern Asian style with chillies being a dominant feature, but that's about it," Mr Nash said.
"They show up, get told the menu on the night and I go out and talk to them.
"I have done a few with producers because I love working with farmers and getting my produce direct from farmers and working closely with them."
Hosting these exclusive ticketed events where the produce is sourced from WA farmers who also attend the dinners is something Mr Nash wants to do more of in the future.
"Having producers at the dinners, they can talk about what they're growing, what they are doing and it's about connecting them with the end product, which is really special for them and me, because they are really passionate about what they do and I am passionate about what I do.
"To be able to connect those two is phenomenal, that's the enjoyment I get out of it."
Dingo Dining has also expanded into street food, having a pop-up food stall at Sunshine Harvester Works, Fremantle, with affordable, tasty food in Mr Nash's signature modern Asian style.
"In a lot of South-East Asian countries and any country that has a big street food emphasis, many of the families are large but they don't have kitchens because their homes are so small, so they eat street food every night - that's their dinner and that's what we are trying to do with this," he said.
Sunshine Harvester Works is open every Friday night and offers an eclectic street food experience with various food and beverage vendors.
"I like that I can get instant feedback from customers, which you don't get being a chef in a restaurant, so it is a lot more satisfying than what I'm used to," he said.
"I also like the independence of working for myself - I can change the menu when I want and source produce when I want and from where or who I like."
Mr Nash also uses the venue as his commercial kitchen for his sauces and catering business.
Simply born out of a passion for cooking with chilli, Dingo Sauce Co is a family-owned and operated business, with his wife Ailbhe (pronounced Alva) also involved, built on the desire to showcase quality, local produce and connecting with growers.
It all started as a hobby with Mr Nash just making some sauce at home for his own family's use.
He would then give them to his daughter's school P&C for raffle prizes and they started to gain some traction in popularity.
Also, being involved in the "chilli world", as part of the Western Australia Chilli Exchange aided in the business's success, providing another customer base for his sauces.
Dingo Sauce Co has hit numerous milestones within a short timeframe, as after one year in business Mr Nash won six gold medals for various sauces at the 2017 Mr Chilli Awards.
Then at the 2018 Perth Royal Show, his Smoked Sriracha sauce, one of his most popular, won Best in Show, which was one of six medals awarded to him.
When trying to come up with a business name, Mr Nash wanted something that clearly reflected it was an Australian product.
He had always planned to emphasise it came from Fremantle, an area well known among Western Australians and most Australians, but he wanted something that would resonate internationally.
"I was talking to my wife and suggested Dingo Sauce Co," Mr Nash said.
"It really symbolises locality, where it comes from and the whole ethos behind the actual business."
Whether you're simply looking at the bottle, or daring to try one of the hot sauces, Dingo Sauce Co celebrates Australia, particularly the premium produce grown in WA.
The sauces are available at 39 stores in WA, mostly independent supermarkets, gourmet markets and small grocers, tying in with Mr Nash's passion for supporting small businesses, including outlets at Carnarvon, Denmark, Margaret River, Busselton and Perth.
Karyn Wiggins and her partner Jaimie 'Pompy' Moore are one of the largest growers of super hot chillies in Western Australia.
They are also one of the main producers from whom chef and Dingo Sauce Co owner Leigh Nash, sources his chillies.
But despite being so well known for growing super hot chillies, including the excruciatingly hot Carolina Reaper, chillies only make up a small portion of their Carnarvon plantation as about one to two hectares of their 10.5ha property are dedicated to chillies.
Their biggest crop is actually capsciums.
With a moderate, subtropical climate and fertile soils being on the banks of the Gascoyne River, the Wiggins family's plantation is the perfect location for growing tropical fruit and vegetables.
Having been a grower all her life and with her family being producers for more than 40 years, Ms Wiggins is like her family, innovative, resilient and passionate about what she does.
Her parents were the first to grow capsicums under netting within the region and now, except for a small portion, most of their plantation is under netting.
As with most farming pursuits the rewards and enjoyment are often matched with setbacks and Ms Wiggins has certainly had her fair share.
"The plantation was damaged by cyclone Olwyn in 2015," she said.
"A new netted shade house blew over in the cyclone so that was costly to replace and then to try to make enough money to pay it off.
"Unfortunately that's what happens with natural disasters."
Being along the flood-prone Gascoyne River, Ms Wiggins said the plantation does get flooded when the river is flowing.
Among the chillies they grow, Ms Wiggins and Mr Moore also specialise in paprika for the Perth market.
"I have grown chillies all my life, mainly the long cayenne chillies and for the past six years, I have been doing a lot more super hots," Ms Wiggins said.
"Jaimie came across a nice sauce that we really liked so we thought maybe we should try some of those chillies and we love growing them."
Not much of a chilli eater herself, Ms Wiggins said Jaimie is the 'hot head' and loves eating them.
They have to wear gloves when picking the super hot chillies but even more caution is taken when making their value-adding products, such as a chilli powder.
"When we make the chilli powder, we basically wear a full hazmat suit," Ms Wiggins said.
"Even washing them, without the suit my face and arms would be burning."
They have about 150 plants of Carolina Reapers, which is a small portion of their chilli crop, which is all harvested in December.
"They are a perennial plant but I just do them annually, so we get everything out of the ground, because if we leave everything in they are more prone to disease and pests.
"So we pull everything out and usually start planting again in February."
About 80 per cent of their chillies are sold to supermarkets and 20pc go to sauce makers such as Mr Nash.
"The super hot chillies are a very niche market because they are so hot, they can't be eaten normally, they have to be used in certain ways," Ms Wiggins said.
Ms Wiggins and Mr Moore are one of the few single operated growers around Carnarvon who have branded their business, known as Moore Veggies with the slogan 'Eat Moore Veggies'.