Jun 18, 2014 10:36 PM by Ashlea Bullington
The makers of Tabasco have listened to the requests of Avery Island visitors who want to become part of pepper sauce-making experience.
Tourists visiting the New Iberia factory have long been able to learn how Tabasco is made while viewing a short film about the McIlhenny family and enjoying a quick walk through of a small sectionof the family-built facilty.
The internationally renowned company is breaking ground on a new visitors center that will give their guests what they've asked for.
"Our visitors over the years have cried out for it. They want to see peppers grow. They want to see the mash, the processing of the sauce. We are giving them what they want. We want to make this more of a destination versus a tourist spot," said Cecil Hymel, Vice President of Administration for Tabasco Company.
The new visitors' center, set to open in summer 2015, will feature a self-guided tour and will provide a history of the island and the McIlhenny family. The new building will offer tourists an opportunity to visit the greenhouse where Tabasco peppers are grown and a glimpse inside the company's warehouse and processing plant, a part of the facility unseen by the public in at least 35 years.
"They will get a high-rise view, the smell of the peppers going into the sauce, all the sensations making our sauce," Hymel explained.
Peppers are grown only for a few months out of the year, so visitors will get to see peppers growing in different stages, including the planting process at the greenhouse throughout all times of the year.
In addition to the visitors' center, there will be a new Tabasco-themed restaurant added to the mix. South Louisiana cuisine will be served, including dishes like jambalaya, boudin, and crawfish étouffée, all recipes indigenous to Cajun country.
The McIlhenny Company has also bought the Jungle Gardens located on Avery Island. The Company plans on making the entire island a tourist destination, not simply focusing on the factory tour. Included in the new renovations, company officials plan to add places to stay on the island. With the addition of new accommodations, Hymel said Tabasco wants Avery Island to become one of the top-five percent of destinations for people to come and enjoy.