More and more people are getting to know the wonderous world of hot sauce, but most don’t know much about the creators of these delicious sauces. Who are those heroes behind the brands that spoil us with the best hot sauces? We are about to find out in our interview series ‘Meet the Makers’.
This time we’re going to ask Gene, founder of Karma Sauce, our 10 questions. Hearing that brand name should ring a bell if you’re a hot sauce fan, because they have tons of popular flavors and are pretty involved with Hot Ones. They have had some of their Karma branded sauces on the show, like Extreme Karma and Burn After Eating, but something many of you might not know is that they also produce the Los Calientes sauces of Hot Ones. So we already know they’re real experts at making hot sauce, but we want to know more about them and that’s why we asked Gene our questions.
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When & what was your first hot sauce experience?
I have loved spicy food almost as far back as I can remember anything. The first Mexican restaurant in town opened near my elementary school and I was blown away. Every new exposure to the spice was an epiphany for me, from Thai curry to Buffalo chicken wings.
What drove you to start your own brand?
The Karma Sauce company grew out of a vegetable gardening project that culminated with a locavore challenge in September 2009. The challenge was to eat only food grown within 50 miles of home for one month. Hot sauce was one of the trickiest parts of this – there wasn’t much in the way of local hot sauces available, so I decided to create a new sauce with regional character. Feedback on the sauce was so positive that I decided to give it a go as a business.
An early challenge was finding a way to commercially bottle and still use whole vegetables for the sauce. I interviewed quite a few co-packers but just couldn’t get it done without reformulating in a way that lowered the sauce quality. That’s why I bit the bullet and set up my own shop with vegetable processing capabilities that go beyond most bottling lines, which tend to use pre-processed ingredients. Processing whole vegetables is a lot of extra work but I think the results are worth it.
How did you come up with the name of your brand?
The Karma Sauce name was inspired by a puppy named Karma that frolicked around our vegetable garden when the first sauce was invented.
What’s your favorite ingredient to work with?
Chiles of course! But I do like cumin and lemon grass lately.
What does your working space look like? (couple of pictures or a short tour video)
Gene was so kind to send us some pictures of the entire process, from garden to packing the sauces.
What is the ultimate highlight up until now?
Having a fixed spot on the Hot Ones line up since season 6 has been amazing (with Los Calientes).
What is your favorite hot sauce from another brand?
Right now I’m digging Clark & Hopkins Assam Hot Sauce, but it varies day to day.
Do you have a favorite cultural hot sauce reference (in music or tv/film)?
Hot Ones! That’s the big one right? From way back, I love the reference to Trinidad Charlie (awesome hot sauce maker) in Nowhere to Go, Nowhere to Be by Kenny Chesney.
Name your 5 favorite songs that you like to play when making/eating hot sauce.
Put on The Red Hot Chili Peppers album Blood Sugar Sex Magic and take it home.
Name one food + hot sauce combination that our followers just have to try.
Thai stuffed chicken wings. They are crispy outside and loaded with cellophane noodles and spicy goodness.Not so easy to find but people love them when they try them, and a great foil for whatever spicy condiments you have on hand but Curry Karma or Cherry Bomb really hit the spot. Easier is potato pancakes (latkes) with sour cream and Bad Karma hot sauce.
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We want to thank Gene for answering our questions. Ofcourse we also want to point you guys out to the great sauces he and his team make. All Karma Sauces can be found here.