Posted May 21, 2007 by Jim Campbell in Reviews

Denmarks’ First Chili Pepper Shop!

There remains little doubt that chiles are a world wide craze. For proof, one need look no further than the center of Copenhagen Denmark of all places, where you’ll find one of Europes’ first shops dedicated exclusively to all things chile… or chili. Just a block from the University, nestled in amongst the many historic buildings along a street than can only be described as ‘eclectic’, sits the “Chilihouse”.

Outside the ChiliHouse
A view of the shop, looking back up the street. There is a strange and interesting mix of shops on the street including boutique dress shops, an S & M store, the “Jailhouse Bar”, bookstores, and business offices. Quite a bit of pedestrian traffic though it isn’t quite on the main walkway. There is a fair amount of walk in traffic as well as folks looking specifically for the shop. It is located about as near to the very center of Copenhagen as one can get.

The shop is owned, managed, and staffed by Mr. Henning Petersen, a gentle giant who has fast gained a reputation as one of his country’s leading experts on all things ‘hot’. As his shop consists of equal amounts of products from Mild to Wild® and CaJohns Fiery Foods® among others, his eye for quality is little questioned 😉

Inside the Chilihouse
An interior shot of part of the shop. Featured in this section is clothing, ceramics, ball caps, napkins, fajita kits (complete with cast iron skillet), and dip mixes ALL with chile pepper designs. He has an excellent range of products, not just limited to sauces & salsas.

This designer boutique features an assortment of sauces, salsas, chutneys, chili vinegars, clothing, pottery and dip mixes as well as art and BBQ sauces. CaJohns’ Select Purees are among the better sellers and are featured prominently.

CaJohn's Danish Select Puree
Translation anyone? Needless to say, there is quite a bit of signage in the shop explaining to folks just what all the stuff is. Education is a big part of Hennings’ work. Here is a sign explaining all about CaJohns’ Select Purees.

The shop has been open now for just over two weeks and celebrated its’ Grand Opening this past Friday (May 11) to quite a bit of fanfare. My wife and I considered ourselves fortunate indeed to be able to take part in this event. The event was actually quite formal, invitation only with wine, beer and soda served to the almost 125 people who attended.

Chilihouse Grand Opening
A crowd shot during the Grand Opening. This was a bit early into the event while it was still possible to move about the shop. For a long while, it was absolutely impossible to move about the place as it was packed with people. Henning estimated there were about 125 people attended during the 4 hours of the opening party. Given that the shop might be 500 square feet total, that was impressive in it’s own right!

The opening of the shop had received quite a bit of press, with articles appearing in the two largest newspapers and a magazine. Most of the articles centered around this ‘quite fierce’ sauce called “Stupid Hot” which elicited intense curiosity from all around. If you’re up on your Danish, you can read the articles here and here. Additionally, another appears here Mr Petersen tried to warn these folks that they really had no idea what ‘hot’ was all about but there just was no teacher like experience 😉

Abby Campbell
What I found to be one of the nicest touches about the Grand Opening was that it featured free wine, beer, & sodas in addition to all the chile pepper sampling. Abby, due to her extensive bar tending background, was tapped to handle those chores & she did so with relish… and a few Tuborgs for herself 😉

The Danes are a remarkable people, taking great pride in their ‘averageness’. Orderly and conservative, we were assured that there was no part of the city we could wander into and have any fear at all.

Indeed, it seemed that every time we stopped to check the map, we would have at least one or two people stop to ask if they could be of any help. Probably 90% of the country speaks English and communications were not an issue- except when I’d try to say: jeg taler ikke Dansk, undskyld (I don’t speak Danish, sorry). Most folks prior to our trip told me of the supposed legal pot cafes and red light districts but these are most assuredly NOT a part of the Danish culture. Many people confuse the Danish with the much more liberal Dutch, located a few hundred miles to the southwest (Denmark vs Holland).

The Great Dane
The proprietor of the Chilihouse, Mr Henning Petersen. The Danish King of Chilies.

So, Henning- a chile pepper shop in Copenhagen? Kinda unique huh, given the extreme level of Danish food?
I’ve had a long time love of chili peppers, found myself between jobs and thought it was a great time to give it a try. Danish food is changing a bit just like the rest of the worlds’. Probably slower than most but many Danes are very curious about other foods and are especially intrigued with these ‘fierce’ things called chilies 🙂

Obstacles in opening the shop?
Several. Copenhagen is *extraordinarily* expensive and finding a shop for lease in the right spot doesn’t come along very often. That this shop, in such an ideal location, was available was extremely fortunate. Lead times for ordering from suppliers is also quite lengthy. As I have little track record, most of what I need for sales is guessed at for the moment. Converting all the labels into their Danish equivalents is also time consuming.

Finding much local interest?
Yes, quite a bit. There has been quite a bit of media coverage since this is such a unique thing. It is certainly Denmark’s’ first chili pepper shop and I believe it to be the first of it’s kind in Europe. Articles have appeared in the two largest newspapers and a rather amusing one featured one of the reporters giving the ‘Stupid Hot’ a try. I did everything I could to warn him he did not know what he was about to do. The picture is of him sitting on the floor speechless after a minute or two 🙂

Where’d you learn about chiles?
I’ve been to the US many times as well as Thailand and other places. I’ve even attended the Fiery Foods Show in Albuquerque and was amazed at all the different sauces. I’ve used chilies for a long time in cooking for myself and have taught some cooking classes. [Authors’ note- Henning is also the published author of a Danish Chile pepper Cookbook- “Jeg Elsker Chili” (I love chile) and a follow up one on Cajun.]

Having fun yet?

Yes. People will come into the shop and tell me they want something strong and go straight for the ‘Stupid Hot’. I try to tell them that they have no idea what they’re getting into, but there is just no explaining it. I offer samples to them but they just will try it at home they say. They just have *no* clue what’s about to happen and it is fun imagining their surprise. I try my best to converse with them to find their needs and steer them to something more suitable like CaJohns’ Select Purees but many times it is without success. They will learn pretty quick I suspect 😉

CPH Canal
During one of the *very rare* moments of sunshine, I snapped this quick pic of a street scene along one of the many canals of Copenhagen. The sun shone the day we got there and the day we left and inbtween was a week of clouds, rain, wind, cold, damp, and dreary- typical early Spring I’m told.
Drop it to about 34 F and that describes their lengthy winter as well. No wonder these folks were such renowned explorers!

All in all we had a fantastic time in Denmark. Not germane to this review are all of the many pics I took of the castles, cathedrals and sites to be seen while wandering the city. Not known as a specific ‘hot’ tourist destination, Copenhagen is nonetheless *well* worth a trip! Expensive, amazingly so, but well worth putting on any itinerary.

Should you find yourself in the neighborhood, stop in and pay a visit to the Chilihouse!

Studiestraede 40
1455 Copenhagen K
Phone 4085 8020

Jim Campbell