Huy Fong Foods has a 650,000 square foot plant in Irwindale that's been in the crosshairs of an ongoing controversy over the smell that comes from the building. It's where they make Sriracha Hot Chili Sauce and we got a tour of the plant. You can too. More on that in a moment.
We started off in the lobby where we met Kiara Bernal. Nice lady. Proud of her company and boss! She tells me the company's was named after the boat that brought owner David Tran to America from Vietnam. "He's shy," she says "and, doesn't want to talk" but it okay for her to do an interview. She just couldn't talk about the bad things that had the company in the news the last couple of months. The anger from neighbors over the smell, the lawsuit from the city for the same reason or the production halt that made people think there was a shortage. "There really wasn't a shortage" she said.
We started the tour in the area where they crush the peppers during the August-September harvest period. That's what smells the worst. We went by the machines that mix vinegar, salt, garlic and sugar into the sauce. We saw where the make their plastic bottles from small pre-molded containers. Ultimately, we got to the area where machines squirted the red sauce into each bottle, screwed a green cap on each one and then boxed them.
There was certainly a smell all the way through the plant. It wasn't bad. But, it wasn't harvest season. Also, Bernal said, Tran designed and installed filters to mitigate the problematic smell.
Across the street I knocked on doors. At the two houses I visited both men who came to the door told me the smell really has never been a problem for them. Down the street I ran into Philip and Valerie Perez. They said it smells. Philip Perez told me he used to work at the plant and was adamant the filters won't matter. His wife was much more philosophical about it all. She said "if you live next to a trash company it's going to smell like trash. If you live next to a chili making company it's going to smell like chili." But, Kiara Bernal says her boss hopes the filter changes will help.
Okay ... want to take a tour? Call Huy Fong Foods in Irwindale. Ask for customers service. Schedule a tour. It's free.
Why are they giving tours? Bernal told me Tran is "proud of his product and wants people to see it." And, when you see it you'll also smell it.