An Avaca man prepares to compete in the ZestFest Fiery Food Challenge in Texas

AVOCA — Some like it hot. Others live on spices. Kris Fragale falls into the latter category.

Originally from Exeter, who now lives in Avoca, Fragale, 32, has had a passion for hot food since childhood, long before he was internationally ranked and recognized for his iron stomach, armored taste buds and ability to withstand even the hottest peppers and foods , getting ready to go to the ZestFest Fiery Food Challenge in Texas.

“My Opa, which is Dutch for grandfather, he was very fond of spicy, garlic and all that… When he died, my uncle gave me a bottle of gravy and said, ‘Your Opa made this sauce. It’s hot enough to clean grease off driveways. So I inherited this bottle of hot sauce,” Frageil explained. And that was the beginning of a lifelong interest that would only grow over time.

Some of Fregeil’s friends grew their own peppers, and after spending a lot of time experimenting with them, he got to the point where he was comfortable eating even the famous Ghost Pepper, which eventually became his favorite. When the pandemic began, Frageil said he “didn’t know what to do with himself.” So he decided to go on Facebook and then create a YouTube channel: The Scoville Unit, “Where the topics are hot and the peppers are even hotter.”

As his popularity grew, potential sponsors approached and suggested that Fregeil adjust his theses. Fragale then decided to start doing reviews and competitions like the Pacqui One Chip Carolina Reaper Challenge among others.

Through networking and meeting new people in the digital space, Fragale realized how deep the world of spicy food really is. Since then, he’s formed an LLC, competed in a wing-eating contest in Georgia with cast members from the critically acclaimed and fan-favorite The Walking Dead, and made the ratings for League of Fire.

League of Fire is the de facto rating and governing body for spice, sauce and chili lovers worldwide. Fragale finds his name on these lists, ranking 49th overall and 12th in the 2021-22 season. The ranking is based on points accumulated from various tests.

Every year the League of Fire holds a national championship where they send out invitations to the top 100 Chili Heads in the world and select 10 contestants. Fragale was selected for this year’s competition – the aforementioned ZestFest.

At first he declined because he was getting ready to start a new job and with only a month left (October 1st) and Dallas, Texas, it just didn’t seem possible. However, those who know the man won’t let him just sit there.

First, Frageil’s brother-in-law (Fragile’s second-biggest supporter after his wife, Beth, whom he married this year), offered to pay for his flights. Then another acquaintance offered to help finance the hotel and car rental. And finally, the new boss encouraged Frageil to go to Dallas. “He’s saying, ‘I want you to understand that you’re not just someone who’s going to come here and work. You are part of our family. We see you as people. We know you have a life outside of work, and that’s important to you. We want to support your small business.” So, now I’m walking, and the whole community is behind me,” noted Frageil.

And that community extends much, much further than NEPA.

Fragale was recently promoted to Lieutenant in The Sons of Fire – Ireland’s global Chili community, and has continued support from fans, friends and family from all over. “It’s an honor for me because I didn’t expect it to turn into what it turned into. “I just wanted to get a hobby,” Fragale said. When ZestFest rolls around, however, Fragale isn’t just happy to be involved. He heads to the Lone Star State with the intention of conquering it.

Follow Fragale on Facebook and Instagram at TheScovilleUnit and th3_scoville_unit, respectively, and The Scoville Unit on YouTube. He will post a link to the live stream of the competition in October.

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