Someone Wanted Me to Succeed—The Rise of The Rock Star ChilliMan
The serendipitous ride of the ChilliMan was continuing on an inconceivable upward trajectory! Positivity was flowing like a waterfall. The buzz was electric!
My chillies and products were in high demand from consumers and retailers. I was supplying Michelin-starred restaurants!
I was in high demand. My attendance was required at events, competitions, media, TV and radio!
The sun was shining on me, and it felt amazing! This was a BIG thing! I felt limitless! On stage, in front of the cameras, on the radio, in the newspapers and magazines—I felt like a ROCK STAR!
The Food Community Wanted Me to Succeed
The support was unending. My success was also their success. From my local food producer friends, food agencies such as Made in Lancashire and North West Fine Foods, Food North West, to Myerscough College and The University of Central Lancashire. Not forgetting the foodies and of course, my family!
My PR Representatives Wanted Me to Succeed
Massive help. They had tremendous ideas, filled the gaps in my thinking and joined the dots to my success.
PR Best Practice—Listen to the PR and marketing people. Tell them your hopes and dreams and act on their advice.
The Media Community Wanted Me to Succeed
I had some outstanding locally produced luxury goods. They sat me in a rocket and lit the fuse. In the space of less than 14 days, I went from my first article in the local press, to BBC Radio Lancashire, to BBC News, to a documentary on ITV1!
I had entered a river of media attention and the current was strong, pulling me to London, national TV competitions and the company of big celebrities.
Getting Noticed with Striking Visual Appeal
My chilli company was called Little Green Men. I have Irish heritage. The Little Green Man image I was using in my logo and artwork was from a picture taken on a university night out on St Patrick’s Day. I had painted my face and hair in Irish colours!
I Created The ChilliMan
I bought makeup and green hair spray and painted myself as the brightly coloured chilli-growing Local Food Evangelist—The ChilliMan!
It worked unbelievably well. The ChilliMan was like a magnet for photographers, journalists, TV cameras and anybody who was attending the food festival looking for a story!
I am very grateful for the images people supplied. These days, if it isn’t photographed or videoed, it never happened! Back then, photos were scarce, and video was even rarer!
Again, serendipity did something that nobody else was doing on the food circuit. Everywhere I went, I got headline articles, press and media coverage. The attention and demands for stories, TV and appearances at events never seemed to end.
A Perspective of the Magnitude
There was only a handful of TV channels and newspapers two decades ago. Getting on all of them was a MASSIVE accomplishment! I refuse to say I was responsible for this. I was blessed with so much help and good fortune.
In Passion Lies Power
I had a chilli dream. I followed my heart and engaged my passion for chilli growing and the result was spectacular! The serendipitous rise of The ChilliMan began, and it was a product of LOVE! Build on that foundation and amazing things happen.
In the BBC Talent Show “The Gift,” I was referred to as “a bit chilli-obsessed!”
I was. I pursued my love of chilli growing and chilli product making with unbridled passion. It was infectious. My love for my dream was obvious and flowed through everything I did.
The judges also said I had a “smile in my voice.”
I was happy in my life, work and play. It is a period of my life for which I am eternally grateful to all. If you were part of it, I thank you again, and again… and AGAIN!
Analysing The Rock Star Rocket Ride!
My Winning Strategy was Simple:
Great Quality + Put on a SHOW! = Attention + Chilli Sales
There was a new wave of food evangelism and local food producers were the beating heart of it. I was in the right place at the right time.
I was a fresh, crazy guy that loved chilli growing and pursued my dream with fearless passion. I was getting noticed everywhere I went. I was unique!
High-Quality, High-Demand Products
- I offered fresh chillies in 120 varieties.
- I added value with the help of my local food producer friends, and we turned the most popular products into wonderful chilli-flavoured foods.
- I offered the best quality luxury foods at a price to allow me to reinvest in the business.
The ChilliMan Putting on a Show!
The ChilliMan face paint was a statement of entertaining intent and I sought to deliver.
Food and Cooking Demonstrations
- I sought to get up in front of people either on a stage, in the media or on my event stand.
- I would educate the public about chilli properties.
- I offered tastings of all my products.
- I cooked with chillies in my BIG pans. I had a pair of 3-foot paella pans and karai dishes.
- And the funny showstopper was always the ChilliMan super-hot chilli tastings, usually by chilli fanatics known as chilliheads!
Shine at BIG Events
They invited me to exhibit at the epic 100,000-visitor-strong BBC Good Food Show in winter, pre-Christmas and later the combined event of BBC Gardeners’ World Live and BBC Good Food Show in summer at the National Exhibition Centre (NEC). I ended up on stage with The Hairy Bikers one year!… and on BBC Gardeners’ World the next!
Service to the Community
It began with outreach work, helping local food producers to utilise digital products (IT) better. I had strong community links with my local food producer friends and progressed to championing local produce and promoting local food producers.
My childlike joyous drive sought to educate the nation about chillies, growing, flavours and health benefits, and broaden consumer choice by increasing chilli varieties and products on the shop shelves.
Harnessing The Latest Technology
I was a geek, in the right way! My chilli website shot to the top of Google as a resource for ground-breaking vlogging, recipes, growing instructions, history and much, much more! Online sales were the very latest thing. Mobiles did not exist as they do today. The process was painstakingly manual!
The ChilliMan harnessed the new Facebook and YouTube, which pulled people into the food events. My skills in websites and databases had sent my chilli website stratospheric with added video content as I videologged my way around the country at events and in and out of press and media.
Next-to-no-one vlogged like this in the noughties (2000 onwards.) The mobile phones did not shoot and upload. It was VCR tape, uploaded slowly to PC, slower to edit and even slower to upload over rudimentary broadband!
The hard work paid dividends—I topped 2 million visitors!
I got noticed…
My website, my community work and my media profile landed me an invitation to the Tourism Awards for Lancashire and Blackpool. Heavy competition from the major tourist resort was present. My one-man chilli band placed second against the GIANTS of Blackpool Zoo, Blackpool Pleasure Beach and the winners, the 5-Star Ribby Hall Village.
ChilliMan Local Food Evangelist
The term Food Evangelist did not exist back then, but I was, without a doubt, an unrivalled Chilli Evangelist!
I expanded to grow 120 chili varieties. I turned them into food products and gave chili cooking demonstrations and chili talks at events nationwide. Over the ChilliMan period, I easily performed 2,000 speaking engagements in public, teaching and workshops.
Rock Star Celebrity Chefs
Things were getting star-studded! The rock star chefs held centre stage at food events and were very interested! I began to supply restaurants, some holding Michelin stars! And of course, the first rock star chef that put British food on the map came to see me: the late great Gary Rhodes, along with other celebrity chefs:
I was a finalist on Gary Rhodes’ UKTV programme national competition: Local Food Heroes. UKTV Local Food Heroes was a competition to find, celebrate and award the UK’s best independent food businesses—those who championed local produce with a strong connection to their community.
and I were friends. He was on a tremendous supporter of local producers and featured my products on his BBC Something for the Weekend show on a Sunday morning.
We met so many times on the food circuit that we became friends and they invited me to attend events in which they featured. Above is an image of us on stage at the BBC Good Food Show.
I went for a beer with a key Jamie Oliver’s team member at a food event in London and was invited to the restaurant to chat with Gennaro and his team.
I whipped up the crowd for Gino’s set on stage as the compere for my local Bolton Food and Drink Festival. We had such a laugh—what a character!
Alongside a host of celebrity guests such as Ricky Gervais, Janet Street-Porter, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, Sarah Beeny and many more, I judged the pizza competition between Johnny Vegas and Gordon Ramsay.
My first big food event demonstration was at the immense Food Lovers’ Festival at Stonyhurst, on the same stage as James! We also met at Bolton Food and Drink Festival as the compere for his set on stage.
Ching He Huang came to see me at The BIG Chilli Greenhouse and we hatched a plan for a chilli campaign in my hometown!
Creating a “Thing” is the Best Feeling in The World!
I was a bit of an academic. You do not achieve the position of university lecturer by chance. We love finding and creating new things. I had created something with no instructions or rule book, no predecessor, and I was one of the first.
I felt like I was doing something amazing and, importantly, I was always striving to be the best. My head was firing on all cylinders and exploding ideas in a thousand directions! Everything seemed to work! I felt like a rock star!
But really, I was just having the most fun I had ever enjoyed. I was having the best time of my life being the ChilliMan!
ChilliMan Alter Ego = Brilliant Fun!
In part 2 I said I was going to be “a first-class weirdo and go for it full-bore!” and The ChilliMan was my alter ego. When I took on his disguise and stepped into character, it was a bit like The Mask with Jim Carrey, in a good way! I had massive fun with my customers, event staff and chefs!
The ChilliMan Felt Similar to the Foodie Indiana Jones
I remember one day I felt a bit like Indiana Jones. Let me explain. I was watching Indiana Jones, with my then-girlfriend, now-wife. Whilst watching it, I thought that on some level there was a similarity:
I was a university lecturer just like (Doctor) Indiana Jones, that went on wild and wacky adventures as his alter ego: The ChilliMan!
I’m not saying I believed I was Indiana Jones, but to be living out my chilli dream as a mini version of my screen hero: Harrison Ford, was, I have to admit, pretty great, and hugely funny!
I was certainly living my best life! 😊
Question: How Far Can You Get on a Handful of Chilli Seeds ‘n’ Dirt with No Roadmap and No Money?
I had very little start-up money. I bootstrapped the lot on a shoestring budget!…
With no money, no guidebook, and very little advice, from a handful of magic chilli seeds, I created the ChilliMan and ended up the first rock star chilli grower in the world of food and drink—not too bad for a newbie!
Coming Up Next for The ChilliMan
I was a Local Food Evangelist in the Local Food Revolution and burning white-hot! They branded me an expert, and I entered a river of media attention.
Proof of the chilli pudding is in the eating! I received coverage in the press and media, major awards and accolades, and was invited to and featured in the top competitions in the country!…
READ ON… Part 6: ChilliMan Press and Media
Who is RK Alker Children’s Author?
R.K. Alker Best-Selling Children’s Author was born in the UK, but he was MADE IN LANCASHIRE!
He is famous as the TV & Radio ChilliMan aficionado and a champion of local producers or “Food Evangelist!”
R.K. Alker has a career spanning more than 3 decades of university lecturing, content writing, UK 999 emergency ambulances, media and entertainment as the colourful TV ChilliMan which contributed to this hilarious children’s adventure book written for his kids.
Read RK Alker Funny Kids’ Author’s amazing story in the PRESS SECTION CLICK HERE
RK Alker is an author of funny children’s books from Chorley, Lancashire, England, United Kingdom, Earth!
His little girls think RK Alker is the Best Funny Kids Author in the World.
Find RK Alker Children’s Author Events, Book Readings, Children’s Bedtime Stories, Kids’ Storytelling, School Author Visits, Children’s Book Signings and more on Eventbrite.