by Chris Chase
Coastal Journal staff
ROCKLAND — A Rockland man and food blogger by the name of Malcolm Bedell was featured on the Friday, Feb. 1 edition of NBC’s “The Today Show,” for beating out the competition in a “best chicken wings” event that was part of the show’s buildup for the Super Bowl.
Bedell makes his “apricot-shellacked ghost chili wings” with one of the hottest chilies on the planet – the so-called “ghost chili” – but that didn’t scare Food Network judge Sunny Anderson, who was impressed enough to send Bedell home with a two-foot-tall golden chicken trophy and a heaping helping of bragging rights.
Bedell, who grew up in Maine and co-created the food blog “From Away” with his wife Jillian, created the recipe as an homage to the Mexican food he had grown to love while living in Mexico, and this moment of television fame was more of a fluke than anything.
“My wife and I both work from home, so ‘The Today Show’ is on every day in the background,” said Bedell. So one day, said Bedell, they saw the ad for the chicken wing competition, and noted the requirements. “We had the recipe and the photography all ready to go.”
A few days later, the call came in, and Bedell was off to New York City to appear on TV alongside his delicious wings.
“It’s a whirlwind, especially because we are such fans of the show,” said Bedell. “It’s all happening so fast that you don’t really have time to be nervous.”
Bedell said he has watched his part of the show several times, and has reviewed his performance with a critical eye.
“I learned that I don’t have any natural ability to both speak and cook at the same time,” said Bedell with a laugh.
As noted above, Bedell’s ingredients include “the ghost chili,” otherwise known as Bhut Jolokia, a pepper used in India as more of a weapon than a food. Rating at over a million Scoville units (a measure of capsaicin present in food, which registers as “hotness” on the tongue), the pepper was at one time known as the hottest in the world, and is eight times more potent than a habanero.
“It was interesting to us because of how it’s been used traditionally,” said Bedell. Those uses include a crude pepper spray and coating fences to stop rampaging elephants. “It’s a practically a poison, it’s not a food. It seemed only natural to try and then figure out how to put that on chicken wings, to take something with almost no culinary use and then try to turn it into food.”
That effort included a few trials and actually finding a supply of the peppers, which required ordering it over the Internet.
“When we got it and unboxed it, even without opening the packaging, you knew it was serious stuff,” said Bedell. “I think we underestimated it.”
According to Bedell, the couple’s first few efforts were better classified with non-lethal weaponry than food. But as time went on, they found a good balance of sweet and spicy, which went on to be good enough to win the “Today Show” spot.
“We ended up with this really addictive sauce that’s really fruity and sweet when you first bite it,” said Bedell.
The Bedells got into the food business after they decided to start blogging on a whim. Now they have a successful blog with over 150,000 unique page views a month, and a growing presence in the food world. Their blog focuses on local restaurants across the state. With this latest appearance on television, they hope to increase traffic and revenue enough to do it as a full-time job, enabling them to travel across the state and visit local restaurants in the hopes of giving them national attention.
“We’re just going to keep doing our thing,” said Bedell. “There’s no shortage of restaurants for us to try.”
And where will the put their two-foot-tall golden chicken trophy?
“We haven’t decided on that yet,” said Bedell. “That’s an item of discussion between my wife and I. I’m super proud of it, but we’re not quite sure what to do with it.”
For more on the wings, including a recipe, visit the Bedell’s blog at fromaway.com.