In 1995, Chile Obsessed drew both elements of his life together and he began designing and marketing chilli-themed T-shirts. The shirts were featured in BBC Vegetarian magazine and Steve even teamed up with Dodie from The Cool Chile Company, who helped to market Chile Obsessed goods to her subscribers.
Inspired by his dad’s love of all things spicy, the family’s weekly curry night also gave Steve the chilli bug. To illustrate the depth of that obsession, Steve’s first business was actually called Chile Obsessed, as ‘chile’ is the more authentically correct way of spelling the fiery peppers. .
When Channel 4 contacted Dodie a year later looking for someone who was obsessed with chillies, she knew exactly who to call.
Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s TV Dinners filmed Steve and his co-obsessive Eddie Baines as they prepared chillies for their respective wedding anniversaries. The show, broadcast in November 1996, brought a lot more media attention and over the years the chilli obsessives appeared in The Sun, the Daily Mirror, the Peterborough Evening Telegraph and the Stamford Mercury as well as on Network East news, The Warehouse and Channel 4’s Chef For a Night, where they took over Rolling Stone Bill Wyman’s Sticky Fingers restaurant in Manchester.
Steve was the first and only trader at the inaugural UK Chilli festival at West Dean Gardens and went on to launch his own range of chilli sauces – Smokin Satan, Yellow Belly Piccalilli, Green Devil Salsa – which were stocked by Fortnum & Mason. Steve eventually went on to sign a contract for HotHeadz to produce, sell and distribute sauces.