Pin It
Favorite

Too Hot to Handle 

Side Dishes: Community rallies around destroyed Hot Tamale Co.

click to enlarge 250foodnews-tamale.jpg

Things haven’t been easy for Moana Dixon lately. On the night of Friday, August 4, Hot Tamale Co., the Mexican take-out eatery in Johnson that she owns with her mother, founder and executive chef Cheryl Kaheleilani, burned to the ground. The building was also their rental home.

On the night of the fire, Kaheleilani was in the hospital, but Dixon kept the kitchen open late to cook a number of orders, including a regular customer’s birthday dinner for a party of more than 10.

“I was cooking chips,” remembers Dixon. “I had a whole bunch of orders — we make everything fresh — I dropped in a batch of chips and I turned away from the stove and thought, Shoot! I have to turn it off really quickly. Someone asked me a question, and I got distracted and stepped away from the stove.”

The grease fire quickly moved across the deck of the house. Before long, Dixon heard the propane tank out back hissing. She grabbed her dog and purse from upstairs and fled just before the house became engulfed in flames.

“I thought, Holy shit, that’s a fire,” she says. Indeed, firefighters from eight different departments battled the blaze — which spread to the house next door — for close to seven hours.

“It’s just a 100 percent loss,” says Dixon. All of Hot Tamale’s equipment is gone, including cookware and ingredients purchased from Mexico. The only thing left standing is the company’s eye-catching sign. Since the family rented its home and restaurant space, it lacked insurance beyond the liability policy necessary to participate in farmers markets.

But, though Hot Tamale’s building is gone, the tamales live on. With help from the staff and donated kitchen space at the Hub Pizzeria and Pub, also in Johnson, Hot Tamale sold its wares last week at farmers markets in Johnson, Jeffersonville and Essex, despite heavy rain. Until Dixon can find a new space of her own, the Hub will host Hot Tamale nights every Monday — when it would otherwise be closed — serving tacos, burritos and margaritas.

Hot Tamale is accepting donations of local produce, meat, dairy and eggs to keep the family cooking, but monetary donations are vital. Immediately following the blaze, Dixon set up a donation button connected to PayPal on the Hot Tamale website. Now, however, she prefers that donors give to her Three Revolutions crowdfunding account, titled “Up from the Ashes.” To collect the donations promised there, she must achieve at least 80 percent of her $7500 goal by September 24. However, Dixon says she actually needs 10 times that amount to cover her losses.

While weathering the hardships of losing her home, Dixon is already making plans. In April, she told Seven Days of her search for a location for a full-service restaurant. She says now that she and a still-recovering Kaheleilani will work harder than ever to find a space in a more heavily trafficked area than Johnson — probably Stowe.

Got something to say? Send a letter to the editor and we'll publish your feedback in print!

Pin It
Favorite

About The Author

Alice Levitt

Alice Levitt

Bio:
AAN award-winning food writer Alice Levitt is a fan of the exotic, the excellent and automats. She wrote for Seven Days 2007-2015.

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Seven Days moderates comments in order to ensure a civil environment. Please treat the comments section as you would a town meeting, dinner party or classroom discussion. In other words, keep commenting classy! Read our guidelines...

Note: Comments are limited to 300 words.

foodie poll

What are your food goals for 2017?

  • Check out more new bars and restaurants — and revisit my old favorites.
  • Eat out less — it's such a bank-account drain!
  • Cook more exciting food at home.
  • I'd like to patronize my local farmstands and markets more.
  • Eat more kale? Er ... observe a healthier diet overall.
  • Something else! I'll note it in the comments section.

View Results

Latest in Food News

Recent Comments

Social Club

Like Seven Days contests and events? Join the club!

See an example of this newsletter...

Keep up with us Seven Days a week!

Sign up for our fun and informative
newsletters:

All content © 2017 Da Capo Publishing, Inc. 255 So. Champlain St. Ste. 5, Burlington, VT 05401
Website powered by Foundation