Sriracha: the reality TV show

There was a panic last week that Sriracha, the hot chili sauce that has a cult following and has inspired multiple cookbooks, would start to disappear. The potential shortage was because the City of Irwindale sued to shut down Huy Fong Foods’ new plant. However, a judge allowed the factory to continue production, though the lawsuit–which began with a complaint from a city councilman’s son–will continue.

That’s resulted in a lot of attention to Sriracha and its creator, David Tran, who’s a reality TV star waiting to happen.

Currently, there’s a Kickstarter-funded documentary that’s finishing production, but it is only a 30-minute film.

What’s clear from this CBS News report (below), which went behind the scenes of the company’s new factory and to the family-run farm where the peppers are picked just six hours before production, is that we need to see even more of David Tran.

Tran’s story is incredible–he’s a refugee from Vietnam who started making his hot sauce on the streets of Los Angeles. Just try not to get emotional when he says in the CBS News story, “I want to say thanks to the America. They accept me, when I refugee. I try to something, give back to the American people.”

Add in the lawsuit, the politics, the family farm that supplies the peppers, and there’s enough for some compelling television.

Alas, as this profile of Tran in Quartz reveals, Tran “shuns publicity, professes not to care about profits, hardly knows where his sauces are sold, and probably leaves millions of dollars on the table every year.”

All Tran wants to do is “to make enough fresh chili sauce so that everyone who wants Huy Fong can have it. Nothing more.” Clearly, he knows what he’s doing, and doesn’t need reality TV to help him–though reality TV could certainly use more people like him.

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about the writer

Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 36, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.