Meet the Makers: Secret Aardvark Trading Co.

secret aardvark interview heatsupply meet the makers

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’.

Secret Aardvark Trading co.

Our first ‘Meet the Makers’ came all the way from Canada, the second one was a lot closer to home (Germany), but for the third one we are going to the North-East of the United States: Portland, Oregon. Home to the immens popular Secret Aardvark. Especially the Habanero sauce of this brand is a true hit in the hot sauce community. Not just because it was on Hot Ones, but mainly because of the unbelievable ratings on Amazon and other platforms. It’s probably the best rated hot sauce in the world and always the number one bestseller on Heatsupply. So it’s about time we get to know the brand and the people behind it a bit better. We speak with Stacy, the power woman who runs the company after her husband passed away.

When & what was your first hot sauce experience?

I grew up in Idaho and had lots of friends with Mexican heritage. You never turned down dinner at their house. The highlight was always the homemade salsa and hot sauce!

What drove you to start your own brand?

My late husband and I started this brand in 2004. Scott was really the driving force. Scott was a chef and musician. We were avid travelers and that always included local hot sauce. Once when we were in Mexico we traveled many miles to a town out of the way because we heard someone had great hot sauce at a stand on the side of the road!

Scott’s life in food began when he entered a chili cook-off at age thirteen. He went on to start a pie company, several catering businesses, a tamale cart, and was a co-founder of Portland’s own Salvador Molly’s. Friends and family always coveted a spot at our table, where you never knew what delicious and unforgettable dishes (and tales) would emerge from the kitchen. Scott firmly believed that food should taste good not just be hot. We have worked to keep that focus with our new products. While we lost Scott to pancreatic cancer in 2009 we have kept his legacy going and growing!

How did you come up with the name of your brand?

There is a short story and a long story. Short story is it was Scott’s favorite animal! Long story is When he was in his late teens, Scott and his friends read an editorial in the local paper that outlined the “Nine ways to identify a gang”. They thought the article was so ridiculous (as it only stereotyped social groups) that they wrote a satirical letter to the editor claiming to be a part of a gang called the “Secret Aardvarks”. The paper took them seriously and published a warning about the new gang, and he laughed about it until years later when he deemed his hot sauce worthy of the name. If you know, you know.

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What is your favorite ingredient to work with?

Habaneros! I love them! I love the sweetness and the flavor. Each color has a distinct flavor. They are great smoked and pickled.

What does your working space look like?

We don’t have our own plant. We use several co-packers across the US. When I am working on a new flavor it is in my kitchen in my house. Even before COVID we have all worked from home. My office is a ridiculous mess of papers, samples, and products.

What is the ultimate highlight up until now?

We have had a great year and an amazing run in general. We were on Hot Ones several years ago which was awesome, we have been mentioned by a number of great chefs, including Michael Symon, who carry’s our sauce in his Mabel BBQ restaurants. It is hard to pick and ultimate highlight. We hit a financial mark recently that I know Scott would be really proud of. That might be the ultimate highlight.

What is your favorite hot sauce from another brand?

Marie Sharp’s Smokin’ Marie is one of my favorite all time sauces.

Do you have a favorite cultural hot sauce reference?

Beyoncé with the “I got hot sauce in my bag / swag” lines in the song Formation.

Name your favorite music that you like to play when making/eating hot sauce.

  • Grateful Dead – Scarlet / Fire Live at Barton Hall at Cornell University on 5/8/77. This track is 26 minutes with 2 songs but I count it as 1!
  • John Prine – In Spite of Ourselves
  • Jennifer Lopez – Let’s Get Loud
  • Joan Jett – I Love Playing With Fire
  • Michael Franti & Spearhead – I Got You

Name one food + hot sauce combination that our followers just have to try.

Sunday mornings are made for Red Eyes! Take a lager or pilsner, add tomato juice and a big splash of Aardvark Habanero Hot Sauce. Gets your Sunday started right!

We would like to thank Stacey for answering our questions. Ofcourse we also want to point you guys out to the great sauces she and her team make. All Secret Aardvark sauces can be found here.

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