Meet Your Maker #11 – Captain Thom
Who is Captain Thom? Well he’s the man behind many of your favorite hot sauces and chile pepper products that you probably don’t know. He’s the lead man behind such products as the Dia De Los Muertos Hot Sauce, White Zombie Hot Sauce, Hickory Smoked Garlic and everyones favorite: the pepper powder keychains (now available in: habanero, red savina habanero, chipotle, jalapenp & piquin). He’s a perennial favorite at the Fiery Foods Show and one of the standout characters in the industry. If you see him don’t be afraid to approach and talk about anything from fishing to chile peppers.
Please give a warm HSB welcome to Captain Thom!
1. Why hot sauce? Where did the idea come from for you to get involved doing this?
Well, my wife (1st Mate Nancy) and I have been in the spice business for about 30 years. It was just a natural evolution for two people that like spicy/hot foods to go into the hot sauce business.
2. If you had to pick a favorite sauce yours, which would it be?
That’s a tough one. I really like the Dia De Los Muertos (Day of the Dead), but now that we came up with the new sauces, The West African Voodoo Juice and more recently the White Zombie, which is a spin-off of the Voodoo Juice without the extract. The White Zombie has a fruiter sweet hot flavor, which has taken over as my favorite.
3. Any new products we should be ready for from your line?
Now there’s always something we’re working on. I’d have to say in the hot sauce line, our next one will be a wasabi/ginger teriyaki sauce. Of course kicked-up with some taste Chile Piquins.
4. Where do you see the future of hot sauce 5 years from now? 10? 20?
You know that’s hard to say. I see the industry as a chile pepper that’s still green, in that I mean not completely ripe yet. 10 years from now, I see a lot more big hot sauce companies like Dave’s Gourmet and CaJohn’s Fiery Foods. The demand is there just look at how many of the larger food companies are now doing spicy foods. Spicy Chicken fillet sandwich anyone?
5. What is your favorite sauce that you don’t make?
Believe it or not there is a bunch. I like Tabasco sauce on eggs all the way to CaJohn’s Frostbite in my martinis, and a bunch in between.
6. Do you eat the sauce you make?
You bet I do! That would be a hell of a thing if I don’t eat my own hot sauce. How could I expect anyone else too? My hot sauces are the best in my mind and I use them all.
7. What do you eat hot sauce on?
The term all kinds of food comes to mind. Eggs, burgers, soup, and oh yea martinis of course. I even have a recipe to make a topping for ice cream that has my West African Voodoo Juice in it.
8. What sets you aside from the other hot sauce producers out there today?
My sauces are unique; I know everyone says that, but just look at them. Nancy and I handle every bottle before we ship it out. We put the skeleton on the Day of the Dead and the voodoo dolls on the Voodoo Juice. The other thing is that we constantly check to make sure that our sauces always have a good flavor.
9. What is your inspiration before you embark on a new concoction?
Anything and everything. I never stop being inspired. I get and idea and work it. We went to Mexico and made a hot sauce for a holiday we took part in down there. (Dia de los Muertos)
10. Outside of creating hot products, what else keeps you occupied or out of trouble?
Nancy and I love to travel and our hobby is big game fishing. We’ve been all over the Caribbean Islands, Central and South America. We also fish in the keys and Hatteras too. We’re always looking for the next big one, I hope before I die to catch a 1,000 marlin.
11. Any weird stories or uses for your hot sauce that you would like to share?
You know I guess this is probably the same story many hot sauce people can tell. This guy comes into the shop and starts talking stuff (I’ll keep it clean). Wants the hottest sauce we’ve got, telling me how he can’t find anything hot enough, sooo! I light him up! Then that same guy starts yelling about how he should sue me for giving him exactly what he ask for. The other part is then he goes outside and throws-up. Hey, I warned him it was hot, I ways do!
12. How much sauce do you make in a week?
We don’t manufacture so some weeks we don’t make any. The weeks that we’re doing research on a sauce we might make 5 to 10 different ones.
13. How many different recipes do you go through when developing a new sauce?
That depends on how lucky we are, sometimes we do good right of the bat. Most of the time we’ll make a couple batches of different sauces. Test market them at a show and get a general feeling what the customers think. Then we might tweak it some to make it just right.
14. How did you get started in the industry?
Well, like I said we started out in the spice business and being hot food lovers, it was just natural.
15. What is your biggest challenge so far?
The biggest challenge, like for all small business people is to make ends meet. The other is to keep putting out a product that people like and will buy again and again.
16. What is the most common question you get?
That’s a two part answer. One is “Are you Captain Thom?” and the other is “What’s the hottest hot sauce you have?” Yes, I am Captain Thom, and do I have a hot sauce for you!
17. What do you want to know from the readers of the HSB?
O.K. is it the heat, the flavor, or both? What makes you buy a particular hot sauce, and how much heat is good for you?
18. What’s a typical day for you?
A typical day is not so typical at all. Everyday it’s something different. Today for example we’re cutting up about 100 pounds of peppers to make 110 gallons of our Smokey Pepper Vinegar. Tomorrow, packing up Survival Kits for our customers and the weekend we’re either doing a show or a demo.
19. Worst burn ever?
That happened when I tried “You Can’t Handle this Hot Sauce”, I surely wasn’t expecting it to be hot. It caught me a little off guard, but that was a while ago. Nowadays I eat a lot more hot sauce and don’t get burned as often. Dave’s Ultimate Insanity is pretty hot though.
20. Best burn ever?
I try to take the heat in stride. When I eat something over the top, I just enjoy the burn. Let it wash over me and make it my FRIEND!
Thanks to everyone that takes the time to read my interview and a special thanks to HSB for letting me have my 30 seconds in the Sun. ~ Captain Thom
Captain Thom’s Chili Pepper Company
2527 Fait Avenue
Baltimore, Maryland 21224
Captain Thom’s Day of the Dead Burger
* 1/4 cup – Day of the Dead Hot Sauce
* 1 pound – ground beef
* 1 each – Jalapeno finely minced
* 1/4 cup – onion, finely chopped
* 1 each – egg, whipped
Combine all ingredients together and form paddies. Grill or fry and top with your favorite fixings.
Captain Thom’s Rise The Dead Taco Meat with Day of the Dead Hot Sauce
* 2 lbs ground beef
* 1/2 cup onion, minced
* 1/4 cup Jalapeno peppers, chopped
* 1/2 cup Day Of The Dead Hot Sauce
* 3 tbs Ancho powder
* 1 tbs Cumin, ground
* 1 tbs granulated garlic
* 1 tbs Chipotle powder
* 1 tbs oregano
* 1/4 cup Tequila
* 1/4 cup water
Saute beef until cooked, and set aside. Drain all fat except one or two tablespoons. Saute onion and Jalapeno in remaining fat until onions are transparent. Add the cooked beef, spices, Day Of The Dead hot Sauce and water. Simmer for 15 minutes. Add Tequila and simmer for 5 more minutes. Serve over nachos or on taco shells. Top with your favorite fixings.