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Wednesday, 8 March  2006  Chilli Man

Victor Vogt believes that the customer is always wrong. And if you think his chilli sauces are hot - he'll tell you they're not hot enough.


LUISA SACCOTELLI: In business terms we're out in the boondocks here. You can't get enough power to run anything much more than a household here. But that hasn't stopped one former outlaw motorbiker from going into the food trade. Condiments are his thing. Mind you, he can't get into the supermarkets, find decent distributors or even manage to stay on the local tourism committee. Despite that, he's doing it his way.

VICTOR VOGT: I like to play with my customers. It's just like an addiction. If you come into my establishment, you're fair game but the thing is I want you to try different things. The customer is always wrong. I mean, just because it says it's hot doesn't mean it's hot. Everyone uses spices right throughout the world. They think I'm a pain in the arse too. But so be it, I can't help it.

LUISA SACCOTELLI: Out in these remote Victorian hills, Victor Vogt has left his outlaw biker club days behind. His allegiance now is to the redbacks, Redback Chilli.

VICTOR VOGT: I started cooking as a level two cook, which is a bit better than a pot washer. But after the hotdog stands I learnt different types of ways of doing our sauces. A lot of people used to come out and say, 'Give me the hottest thing I've got.' So I thought okay I'll kill two birds with one stone, a nice little layer of pleasure and pain. And they couldn't eat it, so they came back for their second. So I had two sales instead of one.

LUISA SACCOTELLI: After hotdogs came a failed restaurant boasting a roadkill menu. It was closed down by a humourless RSPCA. So Vogt decided to go to business school to research a chilli venture.

VICTOR VOGT: I was the only one out of about 35 people who failed.

LUISA SACCOTELLI: He went ahead anyway and set about cooking up his sauces. He made them but few came.

VICTOR VOGT: A lot of people only come in as a curiosity thing just to come in and have a look. But realistically when I'm paying someone $15 a hour to stand there and do nothing, it's amazing.

I started a chilli festival here on site with a mate back in 2000. We had 1,200 people here over the weekend for our first party. We have international exhibitors coming in now. If you don't like to party, there's no use being here.
I guess the multinationals are wiping all us little dudes out, and the big customer chains want you to buy one of four items.

LUISA SACCOTELLI: His offerings are out there but elusive, even to him.

VICTOR VOGT: I can't tell customers when they ask, 'Where are your products' well, I don't know because my distributors don't tell me just in case I backdoor them.

LUISA SACCOTELLI: Instead he has gone to food shows in Asia and America using Austrade grants to get him there.

VICTOR VOGT: I'm worldwide now so I'm a true believer in supporting global warming.

LUISA SACCOTELLI: He now has 100 buyers from Canada to Brunei, enough to get his cooking done commercially in a factory. But cash flow is bumpy. He makes enough for a family wage though the ride is getting easier.

VICTOR VOGT: Thank God to the banks who don't believe in small business because if I did have an overdraft I'd probably be in trouble. It just made me strive a bit further to get out there and find a market for myself.



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English Bites - Chilli Man
story notes

 out in the boondocks
 
Boondocks is a slang term used to describe a remote, undeveloped place. To say you’re out in the boondocks means you’re far away from the city, way out in the country.
 
Example: You're not going to find a café out in the boondocks.
 
Click here for more idioms and common expressions.

 former
 
was once; used to be
We use former to say that someone used to do something, such as a particular job, in the past.
 
Example: The former president of the United States, Bill Clinton, is doing a lecture tour.
 
Click here for more idioms and common expressions.

 condiments
 
A condiment is a substance that you add to food to improve its taste. Some common condiments are salt, pepper, sauces or things like jam or marmalade.
 

 mind you
 
The expression mind you is used for emphasis.
 
Example: When I was young we used to walk, walk mind you, all the way to school every day.
 
Click here for more idioms and common expressions.

 pain in the arse
 
Someone or something that is a pain in the arse is a nuisance or very annoying. This is not a polite expression, so use it with caution. A milder version is pain in the neck.
 
Example: He's been a real pain in the arse lately.
 
Click here for more idioms and common expressions.

 thought
 
Here thought is the past tense of the irregular verb think. Follow the link below to find out more and to listen to some examples.
 
more information: think

 kill two birds with one stone
 
To kill two birds with one stone is to get two things achieved in one action.
 
Example: I'll kill two birds with one stone by visiting my parents and going to the conference while I'm in Sydney.
 
Click here for more idioms and common expressions.

 closed down
 
If something is closed down, it stops operating.
 
Example: They will close down the school at the end of the year.

 chilli
 
These are chillies, or chilli peppers.
 
 
They’re dried and used to make a spicy sauce or seasoning.
 

 went ahead
 
If something went ahead, it happened.
 
Example: The game went ahead despite the rain.
 
For more meanings of the phrasal verb go ahead and its irregular verb form went ahead, follow the link to the language library below.
 
more information: go ahead

 set about
 
To set about is to start doing something in a purposeful way
 
Example: Let's set about fixing up the house.
 
You may hear and see the phrasal verb set about in the past tense and past participle form set about because set is an irregular verb. Follow the link below to find out more about the verb set.
 
more information: set

 made
 
Here made is the past tense of the irregular verb make. Follow the link below to find out more and to listen to some examples.
 
more information: make

 came
 
Came is the past tense of the irregular verb come. Follow the link below to find out more and to listen to some examples.
 
more information: come

 festival
 
A festival is an organised series of special events.
 
You can have an arts festival, a film festival or a music festival. Victor is running a chilli festival.

 exhibitors
 
Exhibitors are the people who come along to show and sell their products.

 multinationals
 
Multinationals are large powerful companies that produce and sell products all around the world.

 chains
 
He’s talking about supermarket chains. A chain is a set of connected things. Here it’s a set of supermarkets - a chain of stores that all sell the same products.
 
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