Tuesday, July 29, 2014
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Kenney Hot For Hot Sauce

City Councilman James F. Kenney is a man of varied tastes, but who would have guessed the South Philly native of Irish extract would have such a devotion to the Asian hot sauce Sriracha?

Kenney Hot For Hot Sauce

City Councilman James F. Kenney is a man of varied tastes, but who would have guessed the South Philly native of Irish extract would have such a devotion to the Asian hot sauce Sriracha?

After reports this week that the Sriracha factory in California was in danger of closing – thus imperiling the supply of the condiment Kenney called “ambrosial” – the councilman sent a tongue-in-cheek though still serious-sounding letter to Huy Fong Foods CEO David Tran, pleading with him to move the factory here.

He claimed the threat of a Sriracha shortage had created “record lines at stores citywide,” as customers sought to snap up the green-topped bottles of iconic “rooster” sauce. Kenney said Philadelphians were holding their collective breath, waiting to learn the fate of the factory.

“And believe me when I tell you we know how to hold our breath,” Kenney wrote. “After all, we are home to the Philadelphia Eagles.”

But living next to a Sriracha factory doesn’t sound like much fun. Neighbors in Irwindale, Calif., complained the aroma wafting from the plant was causing burning eyes and throats – basically that the factory was pepper-spraying the entire neighborhood. The city then asked a judge for a temporary restraining order to halt production. The judge denied the request on Thursday.

There were fears before the judge's ruling that if the factory shut down now, during the peak chili processing season, hot sauces could be in short supply next year.

Kenney’s letter provided 10 reasons why Tran should move his company here.

Most of the reasons seemed more inspired by David Letterman’s Top Ten Lists than anything the Commerce Department might put together – although Kenney did note the city’s large Vietnamese-American community and thriving Chinatown, which would make Tran, a first generation American with Chinese and Vietnamese roots, feel right at home.

The councilman's number one reason:

“Some trace Philadelphia’s love affair with Sriracha back to October 29th, 2008 after the Philadelphia Phillies won the World Series. Instead of admitting we were crying tears of joy, we simply blamed Sriracha saying we ‘accidentally rubbed our eyes’ after smothering our chicken wings with your addictive spicy red nectar.”

No doubt, if Kenney’s pure enthusiasm for the product were enough, Huy Fong Foods would be scouting the Navy Yard for locations by the end of the day.

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The Philadelphia Inquirer's Troy Graham and Claudia Vargas take you inside Philadelphia's City Hall.

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