Claudia: I’m sitting here in the store of Chili Fraunz, who isn’t actually called Chili Fraunz, is that right?
Fraunz: That’s right, my name is actually Christian Franz Klary. I kept my middle name secret for years, because who wants to be called Franz as a teenager in the Lavant valley? That changed with age and ‘Chili Fraunz’ as a brand sounded the best to me. I didn’t have an advertising agency for it or anything, I just thought it up in my head. I’m not a marketing strategist either, but here in the shop I’m an allrounder.
C: How long have your products been around?
F: I’ve been a chili lover for a long time, I couldn’t even pinpoint for how long. It actually started when I was doing mounting work. I traveled all around the world and through that I got to discover new tastes, including different chilies. I ended up combining everything, starting with mango and chili: that became Mango Madness sauce. Back then I only made it for myself, for me and my friends at home. That combination, mangoes and habaneros, it worked for me. Then the questions came – “Where did you get the sauce? Next time you cook some, make a glass for me.” – and then the demand kept growing. That was the starting signal for the chili passion, but ‘Chili Fraunz’ didn’t exist until I had to change my career path and decide whether I should try this. The love for chilies always kept growing, but it was simply about reorganisating my life, on the professional side. I didn’t want to travel for mounting work anymore, I wanted to be at home more and a few things happened that made me think: “Okay, I don’t need that in my life.” I thought I’d take it as a stepping stone and turn my hobby into a business, which I’ve been doing since 2015 now.
C: How was it in the beginning?
F: I went to a lot of markets everywhere, like in St. Andrä or also the Kolomonimarkt in Wolfsberg, many smaller events that I could handle and later Gackern was added. I started to network with other regional producers. The Haus der Region was an important partner right from the start because they supported me.
C: And the idea for the store?
F: That was actually another spontaneous thing. I think there’s no way around it: If you want to do something, then you should do it. I actually had my sights set on another location, with a small sales room, because the markets were getting to be too much for me, with the constant driving back and forth. So I was looking for something stationary. As I said, I had just looked at a small shop in Wolfsberg, then I ran into Schatz Eva from City Marketing and she said, “What are you doing here in the city, Chili Fraunz?” I said I’m looking for a shop and she suggested this store, the former Sajovitz. I’ve always been in love with this wood interior because it’s rustic and beautiful. She also had the landlady’s number, so we quickly called her. Ten minutes later we were all sitting here together and a quarter of an hour later everything was settled. That was a stroke of luck, because here I can cook, store, present and sell, all in one location. We converted the cooling room into a professional kitchen so that food can be produced here and I have a nice, large sales room and a bit of storage space. And all that in the heart of Wolfsberg!
C: What would you say are the best selling products? Is Mango Madness among them?
F: Let’s put it this way, the milder things are generally preferred by the locals. Then, of course, there are the very hot sauces, which are insanely popular with real chili lovers. The salts are also quite popular, that´s sea salt mixed with chili. But there is actually no classic, best product, it always depends on the buyer and how hot they like it.
C: Do people come from further away?
F: There was even an Australian who bought chili salts from the here for her relatives at home. That was the farthest, but otherwise our clientele comes from everywhere, since the Lavant valley is on the way when people head south.
C: How do they find you?
F: I’m on Facebook and Instagram. I tend to let that slide though, to be honest, because I prefer being in the kitchen and with customers and in the evening I’m too tired for social media. There is certain advertising, for the times when I have an advertising budget, but mostly it works through word of mouth, i.e. when people say positive things.
C: Everyone has their favourite product, I´ve found. A friend of mine loves the Blackberry Chili Jelly and it’s my favourite too. My husband likes the Tropical Sweet & Sour, but my son in Vienna likes the really spicy Scorpion Hell.
F: Here in the shop people can try everything – from mild to very spicy – and so everyone can find their preferred degree of spiciness and flavour. A quick phone call beforehand and a group of people can come for a tasting, or you can gift someone a tasting, for example for their birthday, maybe in combination with a voucher, I’m relatively flexible. Since I’m a one-man show, I can do anything I want. At the moment I have a lot to do, because, thank God, weddings are taking place again and I prepare wedding favors to order, in all variations.
C: You like to cook in general, also like to swing the grill fork for your customers. Are you planning to do something at the Schön-Sonntag-Markt?
F: I will most likely team up with Dohr Stefan again, who has become a good friend and business partner, with whom I also produce schnapps with chili, as well as lamb sausages and dried sausages. We plan to offer smoked lamb sausages with bread, so more on the rustic side, good food from the farm. Dohr Stefan has a grazing lamb farm and has the best quality products and he likes to season his schnapps, his meats, pretty much everything with my products now.
C: You also have some things from other producers in the store.
F: Yes, mainly products from Dohr Stefan, but also the spicy St. Michöl pumpkin seed oil in the Chili Fraunz Edition. We also work with Prime Insects, where I deliver chili salt and chilies for the spicy little worms. We also sell Meloni, a refreshing and fizzy drink from a small family business in Villach, so we support each other. It is also possible to put together very individual gift boxes that can also be sentby post.
C: How fast can you put together gift boxes like that?
F: I can do that very quickly. From small stuff to large gift baskets for special birthdays, I can pretty much do anything, as long as I’m not busy in the kitchen making sauces.
C: Where are all the chilies actually grown?
Q: They grow all over the Lavant valley at different locations, because I need more and more and I have good friends who support me a bit. Twenty plants here, thirty plants there, it would be much more difficult for me to take care of the plants alone.
C: I’ve even seen a sign on the door while walking past the shop: “I’m not in the shop today, I’m in the garden.”
F: Yes, then it’s time for taking care of the plants again. Especially at harvest time it´s always fun, starting at the end of August – two months of chili cutting are the order of the day. A spicy matter that requires goggles, gloves and lots of protective gear. There are chilies that are world record holders when it comes to spiciness and my chillies range from zero heat to world record holders. There is the Scoville scale, which goes from zero, for sweet peppers, to 2.2 million for Carolina Reaper. When I process the chilies there, I have to plan it in such a way that the shop is closed for a few days afterwards because the spiciness is in the air for a while.
C: And what is the difference between your chili rubs and the chili salts?
F: The word “rub” is American . These are ready-made dry spice mixes, complete with salt and all the spices. I produce everything without fillers, for example the sauces without water. I make sure that I bring in a lot of taste, so that you don’t have to use a lot and you have a sauce longer. The rubs are actually for seasoning, before frying, for example the Arrabiata Rub, which is also incredibly good on a breakfast egg, pizza or in goulash, you can put it on anything. You must work with the different salts, maybe add something else as well. The chili salts are currently the purest form of chili for me. It is planned that this year, depending on the harvest, we will also produce chili flakes – in grinders or in powder form, but it always takes a while before an idea can be realized. Sometimes it’s difficult when you do everything alone. That also explains the price. A spoonful of sauce is often enough to add to a cup of sour cream and a sauce is ready. You really get a lot out of a small glass if you focus on the taste when producing and leave out the water. You always have to be aware that you get what you pay for.
C: Yes, and almost everything is stretched in some way.
F: Bigger manufacturers will of course try to get a lot of volume out of a run because that’s better for the profit margin. When I make a regular sauce, I have a maximum output of sixty jars. But that means cooking for almost a whole day, not counting the processing of the products, such as cutting peppers, filleting mangoes, etc.
C: So that’s just for cooking, filling, labelling.
F: Labelling isn´t included, that’s just the manufacturing process, because, as I said, I’ve dedicated myself to the taste, so that you can say with every drop: “Wow, that tastes really good!”
C: That’s really the case, I’ve had this experience myself. Do you also have plans for the future? Is your head overflowing with ideas or have you already realized all your ideas?
F: No, my head is full to overflowing. The way things are in this day and age, your head always has to be full of ideas, because if you stop, it gets a bit difficult. But the whole situation is difficult everywhere at the moment, so I´ll have to wait and see what the near future brings and stay flexible. Although I have already achieved a lot and it is now my 7th year, my business is still young. As a freelancer, I’m actually still at the beginning, I still have to win people over, convince them that the price for my products is justified. That’s the challenge. My clientele is growing, a diverse group. From the schoolboy, scraping together his money to buy a sauce, to the pensioner, who wants his goulash soup to be a bit spicier because he pays attention to taste – yes, a colourful mix. A new idea of mine is Chili Salt 2GO. This is a mini grinder to take with you, for example when you go out to eat and the spice is missing. Not every place has high quality chilies, so I decided to make little grinders, starting with hot lemon salt, with chili and lemon. In the near future there will probably be small chili grinders, with just chili powder or chili flakes, to put in your pocket, to take with you when hiking or camping, for example. For me it’s always been “learning by doing.” That’s something that has guided me my whole life, even when I left my job as a trained dental technician to work in mounting worldwide and also when I settled down here again, started this chili business as a newcomer and created ‘Chili Fraunz.’
C: And do you like being in the Lavant valley?
Q: Let me put it this way, the Lavant valley is a very special place. We live here in a beautiful spot. I always say it is “the island of the lucky ones.” Everything just fits here. The people are mostly nice, the climate, the valley is just something beautiful. I was always happy to come back home when I was working abroad. Once you’ve been away, you can recognise how beautiful it is here at home.
Contact: Chili Fraunz
Christian Franz Klary
Hoher Platz 4
+43 (0)699 173 280 19
TUE-FRI 9:00am-1:00pm & 3:00pm-6:00pm