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Inside the Sriracha Factory During Chili Grinding Season

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Photos by Razan Al Marzouqi

Huy Fong Foods, Inc., creators of the wildly popular Sriracha hot sauce, endured a series of legal battles regarding its ability to operate its business in the city of Irwindale, California. That was, until CEO David Tran and his company became the unlikely benefactors of a directive from Sacramento relaxing the tension between his factory (which had been declared a public nuisance) and the City of Irwindale.

But let's be real: the reason Sriracha stuck around was because those bold, spicy flavors were just too big to fail. So with all the paperwork cleared and production set to resume, Huy Fong Foods kicked off its 2014 Chili Grinding Season Friday with open walking tours of the company's Irwindale factory.
The event, which began as a single large gathering on either one of two days, had such an overwhelming number of reservations that the company was forced to split reservations into one-hour attendance blocks.

Guests were ushered into self-directed walking tours of the chili-grinding area, where literal truckloads of chili were sorted, cleaned and ground prior to a 15-day fermentation process. As for the smell that once drew complaints from the City of Irwindale?

"I thought it would smell more, to be honest," one attendee said. "I mean they are just chopping peppers back there." Another attendee thought otherwise. "At one point it got so bad, I really needed the tissues they were giving out," she said.

The people happiest with the new factory digs are, without a doubt, the Huy Fong Foods employees who work inside the factory. "Back in our factory at Rosemead, we had to do everything by hand," said Enrique Islas, one of the tour guides who works at Huy Fong Foods. "Here, it's all robots, so it's amazing. All we have to do is make sure everything works."

Joshua Menviola, a quality assurance worker in the chili processing area echoed Isals' sentiments. "[The new machinery] helps to monitor the filtering process," Menviola said. "We've had reports of peppers going bad so with these new systems we can monitor the peppers more easily, because a bucket of peppers can cost around $500."

The notoriously reclusive Huy Fong Foods CEO David Tran was present, wearing the free green t-shirt handed out to attendees and greeting visitors at the front door. —Euno Lee
· All Sriracha Coverage [~ELA~]

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