Hot Sauce Maker Interview #2 – Uncle Big
Every good Chilehead is aware of Blair, Dave’s and CaJohn’s. It is about time they get introduced to Uncle Big. For the last few years Uncle Big has been creating some of the most incredible sauces you have ever tasted. And if skulls, fancy bottles and coffin containers don’t intimidate you anymore maybe Uncle Big’s Mug will. This fellow is the real deal.
I had the opportunity to speak with Uncle Big and he shared some of his hot sauce insight with me. The man is as complex as his ingredients. Enough banter…lets hear from the hot sauce behemoth himself.
1. The most obvious questions is why hot sauce … what is the story behind Uncle Big?
I was born and raised in a small town in Saskatchewan. Growing up I wasn’t exposed too much in the way of fiery foods and I guess I have been attempting to make up for it ever since. My mother taught me to cook, a skill that has served me well throughout my life and is what started me on my ‘Quest for Fire’. God that’s corny shit, isn’t it. Don’t print that ok? Seriously, I don’t want to sound like a knob. I’ll kick your ass if I see it on hotsauceblog.com!
Long story short I had the good fortune to come in contact with some of the most unique peppers on the planet, the Hatari Pepper. I started experimenting with different combinations of the pepper and other ingredients, making my own little batches of sauce in my home. It was mostly to see how much pain I could inflict on my buddies while we watched Grey Cup or on Ultimate Fighting Pay Per View, I love that shit.
Like all good things, supply and demand got the better of me. My supply dried up and everyone was so hooked on the flavour and heat of that little pepper, there was a demand for more supply.
So, I started researching where in the hell I could find more Hatari Peppers. I had just moved to Calgary, Alberta and was working in the music industry and I started mingling with the locals at the pubs and eateries trying to find a good hot sauce resource. I mean back then, there wasn’t much of anything on the market except your basics like good old Tabasco (yawn!!) and of course Louisiana Hot Sauce (double yawn). Don’t get me wrong, both excellent sauces, but I gargle with Tabasco, again, I digress. A drinking buddy of mine, which were in great abundance at that point of my life, mentioned this little shop that sold a hot sauce called Acid Rain and he was pretty sure the maker called themselves Hatari Bros. Hatari? Could it be? Nah, that would be too good to be true. A few phone calls and a little leg work and the next thing I knew I was shaking hands with a mother f*ckin’ hot sauce genius in the flesh, Salim (Sam) Shivji from Hatari Bros.
Together we combined our love of quality ingredients and intense heat, and of course my deep seated desire to inflict pain on people (grin) and we created what is the most certainly the hottest sauce with the mostest flavour on the face of God’s green earth. The face on the label is mine, the name Uncle Big came from my cute as a button God daughter Maya, and that’s all I have to say about that!
Why hot sauce? My question to you sir is WHY NOT HOT SAUCE?!?? I want people to TASTE MY PAIN!! I’ve tried the rest and now I make the BEST. It’s all about flavour baby. Life is too short not to do what you love and I love to eat and I love eating the heat! No bullshit cliches here, just flavour and sick heat!! Bring it on!!
2. If you had to pick a favorite sauce of yours which would it be?
Well considering I’ve only got one (for now), I would have to say Uncle Big’s Killer Hot Sauce. God, where do you get these questions? You don’t work for CNN do you? Honey, get my agent on the phone; whoever booked this interview is fired.
3. Any new products we should be ready for from your line?
I’m glad you asked me that Anthony, if that is your real name. Oh yes, as part of my plan for complete and total domination of the hot sauce world I have a few devastatingly hot products in the works right now. You can all look forward to putting my hot nuts in your mouths very soon. By that I mean Uncle Big’s Killer Hot Nuts, you know peanuts?? We’re creating an extraction dust from the Uncle Big’s sauce, this is all very technical shit so pay attention. Then we’re going to apply that dust to the nuts, bottle them and sell them as Uncle Big’s Killer Hot Nuts. Did you get all that?
Oh yeah, there will also be a mouth numbing salsa and the piece de resistance, Uncle Big’s Private Reserve in a wooden box. It is entirely possible that this sauce could kill you if you try it straight out of the bottle. I’m thinking of combining a liability waiver and a death certificate to be signed by the customer at point of purchase. It’ll just save the coroner time that way and as a bonus we’ll be immune to litigation, so I see it as a win win for everyone. Seriously, the madness of Uncle Big has only just begun so PREPARE YOURSELF!!
4. Where do you see the future of hot sauce in Canada 5 years from now?
My vision of the future of hot sauce in Canada would be somewhat of a Utopian society. A jalapeno in every pot and a bottle of Uncle Big’s on every table. No one would ever be without spicy foods. Something like that.
Seriously, I would like to see more quality Canadian-made gourmet hot sauces on our store shelves. Stores would then need get rid of the shitty vinegar based sauces manufactured and imported from God knows where, that for some reason seem to be so God damned popular. Just because you can afford to advertise during the Super Bowl, doesn’t mean your product is good, it means your marketing machine is good and that’s unfortunate. People are so brain washed in today’s society that they think just because they saw an ad for it on TV, that it magically makes it good. Remember that vacuum cleaner attachment that cuts your hair?? Or how about that Spray on Hair shit!! Who buys this crap? That’s where the education about what you’re eating comes into play. If a hot sauce burns on the way in, and burns just as much on the way out, maybe you should look at what’s in it. No exit burn with any Uncle Big’s product, no sir.
5. What is your favorite sauce that you don’t make?
OK, that’s not a fair question. Variety is the spice of life, literally in this case. I can break it down for you based on levels of heat, how about that?
Table sauce: 2006 Scovie Award winning Grandma Shivji’s Chile and Garlic. I go through 2 litres a month, no bullshit either. It has replaced ketchup in my house.
Medium to Hot: I gotta go with Acid Rain. Decent heat, and it kicks your ass with flavour and I’m not just saying that because I’m under the Hatari brand. It’s good shit.
Hot to Super Hot: Droolin’ Devil’s El Diablo. It’s an excellent source of heat and provides you with 100% of your daily intake of yummy flavors, the best combination for a 300,000 Scoville unit sauce in my humble opinion.
6. Do you eat the stuff you make?
Well, of course I do and quite happily I might add. Why do you think I look so pissed off on the label? It’s not because I caught my johnson in my zipper, it’s the sauce man!!! The heat is overwhelming; the sweet pain makes me go to my happy place
7. What’s a typical day for you?
Well I get up around 6 am everyday and take a leak which is not a bad start to the day if I do say so for myself. Then I grind up some fresh chili flakes and take a good snort in each nostril and then I do naked Tai Chi in the front room of my house for about half an hour. The cat refuses to watch for some reason, he leaves the room as soon as I walk in, go figure.
Then I make breakfast for myself and my lovely wife of 6 months which involves about half a dozen eggs, HP sauce, Cheez Whiz and even more chili flakes. She refuses to snort any of those ingredients though, but I do encourage her to do so from time to time. Then it’s off to the office from 8-5. I sometimes go to the gym at lunch, but they frown upon my repeated attempts to participate in the TaeBo class in the nude, so I have to wear clothing or they’ll ask me to leave, but I digress. Then between the hours of 5 p.m. until I go to bed, it’s all about the spreading the word about Uncle Big’s Killer Hot Sauce.
I visit retailers, cruise the web and chat with chileheads on message boards and chat forums and work on the website. My wife and I have a couple of other hot sauces projects in the works which will be unleashed on the world when the time is right. Patience is a virtue, all in good time. But not a moment of my ‘typical day’ goes by without thanking the Lord above for loving my wife. She’s the best. It took me over 30 years to find someone who’ll put up with my shit and support the craziness that is Uncle Big, so I consider myself truly blessed to have someone like her.
8. What sets you aside from the other hot sauce producers out there today?
I know I’m probably sounding like a broken record, but I don’t really give a shit. What sets me aside from the other hot sauce producers out there is my dedication to the quality of ingredients in my products. We only use the best and that’s reflected in the price of our sauce. Uncle Big’s ain’t no $1.99 bargain bin sauce over by the laundry soap aisle you know. I consider my sauce in the upper echelon of the sauce world. It’s like a Beamer or a Porsche, a high powered performance sauce with seriously sick horsepower, and that is reflected in the price point.
We aren’t trying to pick people’s pockets but Uncle Big’s Killer Hot Sauce is pepper based, not vinegar based and that’s what you’re paying for the ingredients.
Look at my ingredients: Hatari, Habanero, Scotch Bonnet, Peri Peri, Piquin, Tepin, Birds Eye, Cayenne Peppers, Natural African Oleoresin, Molasses, Tomatoes, Lemon, Lime and Orange Juice, Vinegar, Garlic, Sea Salt, Onion, Herbs, Spices, and Honey. You see that? The first 8 ingredients that make up my sauce (and no they aren’t in alphabetical order) are peppers. I think the discerning ChileHead always notices the difference between pepper based like Uncle Big’s and vinegar based sauces like so many out there. I’m all about the flavour that using quality fresh ingredients provides. The mind blowing heat is just and secondary but very much needed bonus to my sauce. I’ve been told it’s kind of like masturbating with a cheese grater, you know a pain and pleasure thing. Yin and Yang, Darkness and Light, it’s all about balance.
9. What is your inspiration before you embark on a new concoction?
I get my inspiration from different places. Back in the day it was from perception altering drugs, but for the most part nowadays I try to keep my finger on the pulse of the food industry and watch trends to see what’s new and more importantly what’s missing from the scene. There aren’t many new tricks to be had in the hot sauce biz, what needs to happen now is for all of us in the industry to spend more time on what’s inside the bottles and less time on what’s on the label.
Hot sauce is going through a renaissance right now. People are getting tired of the fast food mentality which is running rampant in today’s society. People are spending more money on where, when, how and what they are eating. Gourmet markets are seeing huge gains in clientele around throughout North America and I want to cater to the discerning chili heads out there. I mean people that have 1200 hot sauces in the basement, that shit inspires me. The loyalty those crazy mother f*ckers have to hot sauce and the associated endorphin rush never ceases to inspire and yes even amaze me. People ask me for my autograph because they love my sauce. That my friend would inspire anyone, don’t you think?
10. Outside of creating hot products what, what else keeps you occupied or out of trouble?
Well, during the in between times I love to do photography. I was a photojournalist by trade and I still have a love of the art form. That pretty much fills the rest of my spare time. As far as keeping out of trouble, what would be the fun in that??