Meet the Makers: SWET
More and more people are getting to know the wonderful world of hot sauce, but not much is known about the makers of those delicious hot sauces. Who are the heroes behind the brands that spoil us with the tastiest spicy sauces? Time to find out in our ‘Meet the Makers’ interview series.
This hot sauce brand, from our southern neighbours, is in our opinion one of the most unique in our range. Not only because of the flavours, but also because of the cool style. Very recognizable bottles and ditto labels. It was one of the reasons we became interested in the brand, but after tasting them we were completely sold. The founder of this brand is Thibault (left on the picture) and we asked him to answer our 10 questions.
When and what was your first experience with hot sauce?
When I was a kid, every Wednesday I used to go to my grandma’s for lunch with all my cousins. My grandmother often made an Asian-influenced dish inspired by her own invention, flavored with 5 spices and satay, which she called “Chinese rice”. We put soy sauce, niok-man and especially a lot of sambal in our bowls and dipped our chopsticks directly into the pot. I think that’s how I fell in love with chilies.
How did you come up with the name of your brand?
It goes back to the pre-history of SWET: after nearly a decade as a designer and art director in advertising, I had had enough and became a full-time bicycle courier, riding between 50 and 80 km every day, every day, on a fixed gear bike without brakes, for almost two years. My ass was always wet with rain, my back wet with sweat, and I sought relief in constant physical exertion, which is where the term SWET comes from. It was during that time that I focused on side projects that were truly representative of what drove me in life: I made upcycling bags, brazed steel bicycle stems, handlebars and frames, and of course hot sauces. All these side projects fell under the SWET label at the time. You can see some clear examples of that eclectic era by scrolling to the very bottom of my instagram account, I have not deleted anything. What you SWET is what you get.
What made you decide to start your own brand?
At first I made the sauce just for myself, creating and refining recipes practically every day in a rather obsessive way. But as a trained designer, I immediately enjoyed giving them names and visual identities, and soon I was organizing “Torture tests”; gatherings where I asked friends to fill out a form to get feedback and compare my sauces to others’ tastes. Gradually I expanded this to friends of friends and so on. that’s how I started to see demand, because people wanted to buy them, so I seriously considered selling them. It’s that simple.
What is your favourite ingredient to work with (besides chillies)?
Vinegar, probably. I make a lot of the vinegar we use from scratch. Otherwise all fruit in season; we release a limited edition every month that is always based on the season, because I like to discover new products and experiment with new combinations. But the search for the right products in general interests me enormously: all our sauces are made from fresh ingredients and it is always exciting to work with local producers.
What does your workspace look like?
What is the ultimate highlight so far?
The first batch of sauce in the SWET FACTORY in the LAB, after months of preparation with my partner Mathieu. I had been making the sauce in a shared kitchen for a year and a half and it was a great sense of achievement and progress for both of us. I was so excited that at the end of production I threw a bottle on the brand new red floor, like when you dip a boat. The problem was that day we were making TEARS which is a very strong Carolina Reaper sauce and we were already mopping the floor so it created a chemical reaction worthy of tear gas and we ended the clean up crying and coughing but what were we happy!
What is your favourite hot sauce from another brand?
I’m a little embarrassed to say it, but honestly, it’s still Tabasco. It’s not very original and it’s more of a condiment than a sauce, but that’s why I started making hot sauce, to have something completely different with superior quality. It’s the absolute standard.
Do you have a favourite cultural hot sauce reference (in music or TV/film)?
The Beastie Boys album: HOT SAUCE COMMITTEE PART 2
Name your 5 favourite songs you like to play while making/eating hot sauce.
We only listen to full albums, but okay:
– Nine Inch Nails / While I’m still there (Breyer P-Orrige ‘Howler’ remix)
– Laurent Garnier / Communications from the lab
– Extrawelt / Lost in Willaura
– The soft moon – The pain (The horrorist remix)
– Black Sabath / Planet Caravan
Name a combination of food + hot sauce that our followers just have to try.
Fumata in mayonnaise. Perfect with good fries, we call it FUMAYO. Or a SWET sauce on last night’s leftovers… SWET SAVES.
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We would like to thank Thibault from SWET for answering our questions, but most of all for making great hot sauces. Here you can find all SWET hot sauces. Would you like to read more stories behind the sauce makers? Check out all our ‘Meet the Makers’ interviews here!