Meet Your Maker #18 – The Salsa King & Queen
While at Zest Fest 2006, I had the pleasure of meeting Ron & Lorena, the aptly named Salsa King & Queen. What drew me to their booth was their expansive display of stuffed olives (I love olives) but what made me stay and chat with them was their enthusiasm in their line. I ended up buying 6 jars of olives, a jar of their Flaming Green Garlic Salsa and a few of the dips – none of their products lasted around my house for long, they were that good. If you love olives or garlic, you must head over to their site and pick up some of their hand stuffed olives (they’ll make them to order as well) and some of that famous Flaming Green Garlic Salsa – just looking at the jar you could see huge slices of garlic floating around – yum! (review to follow soon) If you are an olive lover, I highly recommend trying out their entire line or even coming up with your own concoction.
1. Why hot sauce? Where did the idea come from for you to get involved doing this?
ROY: In 2001 I entered a salsa contest held for chefs as part of the Scottsdale Culinary Festival. Voted first place out of a field of 364 chefs from around the country (and 4 other countries) served to confirm that my taste for SouthWestern foods is up there. In 2003, both Lorena and I found ourselves out of a job in a dwindling economy and we believed that our combined our love for traditional as well as eclectic flavors could serve to provide us with an income. So we began The SalsaKing Fine SouthWestern Foods with a line of 2 salsas and now its over 120 different products. We have a great time creating our line of products.
LORENA: I am of Mexican decent and my Nana taught me how to make salsa and cook with chile peppers when I was really young and we learned to eat it with every meal.
When I tasted Roy’s Pepitas y Camarones Salsa I thought it was fabulous but needed more heat. He didn’t believe that our customers would enjoy hot but I finally convinced him and we made a hot version with Habaneros and it immediately out-sold the milder version and continues to do so. That convinced him.
Roy and I have a great time creating our line of products.
2. If you had to pick a favorite sauce yours, which would it be?
ROY: Just one? Wow, for a hot sauce, that would be our Keep Ya Cryin Cayenne, for salsa, Flaming Green Garlic Passion, for BBQ Sauce, our Honey Chipotle, no, actual the Gourmet Honey Bourbon is more interesting.
LORENA(The SalsaQueen): My favorites are Flaming Green Garlic Passion Salsa and Chipotle Black Bean and Corn Salsa however the Antonia’s Chile Verde holds a special place in my heart because it is a tribute salsa I created to my mother who passed away over 3 years ago. As far as our hot sauces I like the Keep You Cryin’ Cayenne.
3. Any new products we should be ready for from your line?
ROY: Wow, my head is ready to explode with ideas, my citrus salsa, my new line of SouthWestern Salsas, apple cinnamon habanero hot sauce, just so many ideas, too little time to explore them all. And Lorena says NO to new products for now, we need to concentrate on marketing and selling for a while and hold off on new products. She is right, we have 126 things.
LORENA: I think we should be reducing our line but I would really like to make an Habanero Pineapple Salsa and an Habanero Garlic Salsa. Although, I like heat with flavor.
4. Where do you see the future of hot sauce 5 years from now? 10? 20?
ROY: Well, hopefully, back to basics, flavor. Burn is good, but for us, flavor is numero uno. It has got to taste great first and foremost. In five years I think that the blast you to death hot sauces will be replaced by more unique and intense flavors. Long term, fewer companies surviving the intense competition, but way way more smaller guys making small batch unique products. A huge increase in middle eastern flavors. And of course, the best will be American Made!
LORENA: I agree with my hubby. I think the “Burn Your Taste buds Hot Stuff” is a fad but you can never tell how long of an endorphin rush fad will hang on.
5. What is your favorite sauce that you don’t make?
ROY: Sweet Heat Addiction Chipotle Sauce from Pfleider Pfoods, pretty good stuff, but then I am a Chipotle addict.
LORENA: Again, I agree with Roy. The Sweet Heat Addiction has great flavor and a little bite.
6. Do you eat the sauce you make?
ROY: Everyday. We eat salsa everyday at most meals. I love to cook with our products and there are very few meals that aren’t spiced up with salsa or hot sauce.
LORENA: Yup. Our Flaming Green Garlic Passion is AWESOME on Pork Chops (check out “The World’s Best Pork Chops” recipe on our website, www.thehot1.comn), any potato and makes an easy and delicious Chicken Enchiladas. Our Pepitas y Camarones Salsa is great stuffed in chicken breast and jumbo shrimp.
7. What do you eat hot sauce on?
ROY: For breakfast, eggs, potatoes, sausage, peanut butter sandwiches. For lunch, on tuna, in potato salad, on sandwiches, with chips, on everything. For dinner, everything.
LORENA: Salsas and hot sauces are great on eggs, burritos, sandwiches. We top off everything we eat with one of our salsas or hot sauces.
8. What sets you aside from the other hot sauce producers out there today?
ROY: Our focus is on southwestern inspired foods. With flavor being the prime center of attention. Because we make so many different things, we get to express our love for food and spice in many different ways. We have also set up a program we call GISalsa where we donate product and send to our troops overseas to thank them for protecting our freedom. A really small thing from us for the big help they give.
LORENA: Ditto. Our products speak for themselves. You may see other Cayenne Hot Sauces or Garlic and Jalapeno Salsas out there but ours have heat and unique flavor explosions! Our Pepitas y Camarones(Pumpkin Seeds & Shrimp) Salsa is probably our most unique product and it is unlike anything you’ve ever tasted.
9. What is your inspiration before you embark on a new concoction?
ROY: Life. We love the great SouthWest, and the fusion of cultures here as well as the incredible diversity of native foods and the huge market of interesting and tasty produce available. When we begin something new, we talk about a specific flavor that we want to emphasize and go from there. It is hard for us to make our products in different heat levels as so many other companies do, we want the predominate flavor there, and to highlight it without overpowering we add chili to a level that enhances. Our Flaming Green Garlic Passion salsa is an excellent example. We tried it with fewer jalapenos and with green chiles to make it milder, and it sucked. We added habaneros, and the flavor was atrocious. So it comes in one heat level only.
LORENA: In addition to what Roy said, my other inspiration is my Nana and the flavors of New Mexico.
When I created the Flaming Green Garlic Passion Salsa last year it was based on a conversation I had with my Nana when I was about 10 years old. I loved roasted garlic and I liked jalapenos and my Nana taught me how to pair chiles with other things I loved and make it into a wonderful tasting well-balanced salsa/product.
10. Outside of creating hot products, what else keeps you occupied or out of trouble?
ROY: What? This is a hundred hour a week business. We sleep, we eat, we cook, we bottle, we label, we sell. On Mondays, we go to the movies if possible.
LORENA: We have no time to get into trouble. There is no such thing as “Spare Time” right now.
11. Any weird stories or uses for your hot sauce that you would like to share?
ROY: We had someone tell us that the bottle of Flaming Green Garlic Passion Salsa that they had purchased from us broke when dropped just outside their door. She said it killed all the ants in the area.
LORENA: I had a customer tell me that she dropped a jar of (again) the Flaming Green Garlic Passion Salsa in her kitchen and she didn’t want to clean it up because it smelled so good.
12. How much sauce do you make in a week?
ROY: We have seven hot sauces, and we make about 40 cases a month. Our salsas are a bit bigger batches and we make about 20 to 25 cases a week. We also have a co-packer now for 7 of our top sellers, and we have them make about 70 to 100 cases a month. We also are going crazy with our hand stuffed olives, making anywhere from 10 to 20 cases a week, depending on who we can snag to come help stuff the olives. BBQ sauce and Ketchup with a Kick, wing sauce, maybe 20 cases a month.
13. How many different recipes do you go through when developing a new sauce?
ROY: On rare occasions, one. Most of the time, from 5 to 8 times. Black Pepper Ale Sauce, 9th batch and still working on it.
LORENA: I feel that we get it right the first time more often. With the Flaming Green Garlic Passion Salsa I knew what I wanted it to taste like, look like, smell like, everything but then the Antonia’s Chile Verde isn’t perfected yet.
14. How did you get started in the industry?
ROY: Restaurant management in the 70’s and then culinary school in the 80’s. When I started working for AT&T in the early 80’s I thought it would be for life. It wasn’t. Lorena and I met there and when we found ourselves out of a job in 2003, we started to make salsa. Lorena is of Mexican descent and most of her life has been enjoying the traditional flavors of her family. I, as a native Arizonan, have spent my youth traveling throughout Mexico and the SouthWest loving every meal I could enjoy. My culinary training, my restaurant experience, Lorena’s traditional background all come together to help us create some of the most unique products available anywhere.
15. What is your biggest challenge so far?
ROY: Making a living at this business. Marketing our products to big companies is next to impossible for the small companies like us.
LORENA: Trying to sell Wholesale and Retail are both very difficult, time-consuming and potentially expensive. We feel that selling Wholesale is necessary if we want to do less retail shows and still make money. It takes time and patience to get into stores and it takes a lot of energy to do retail shows every weekend.
16. What is the most common question you get?
ROY: “How do you come up with these ideas?”
LORENA: Yes. That question and “Do you do this all yourself?”
17. What do you want to know from the readers of the HSB?
ROY: Can you buy massive quantities of our stuff?
LORENA: When are you going to buy massive quantities of our amazingly incredible, mouth-watering products?
18. What’s a typical day for you?
ROY: Up at 6 am, to the gym for an hour. (We need it) Breakfast, with salsa. Then usually over to the kitchen where Lorena starts to stuff olives. I make salsa, hot sauce, bbq sauce, ketchup or whatever else is needed. Make lunch by 1, continue to cook. About 6 or 7, we load up finished product into our van and head home, unload it into living room where we watch tv and label all the jars. And of course I cook dinner in there sometime. By eleven we are exhausted and it is bedtime. Weekends we go to farmer’s markets, Arts and Crafts shows or whatever we can book, set up a booth and sell our products. Easy days on weekends as we are usually done by five, break down booth and get to come home by 7 or 8. Mondays, movie afternoon.
LORENA: Wanting to drop dead several times a day should be in there too. Or thinking that we are absolutely insane for being in this business. I’m waiting for the nightmares of olives chasing after me.
19. Worst burn ever?
ROY: Some salsa at the Fiery Food show a couple years ago. No flavor, just blasting heat. Won’t say whose it was, but it won a Scovie. Not sure why, no flavor that I could discern, just terrible burn from extract. Yuck.
LORENA: I’ve tasted a few that have been just burn off your taste buds hot. I don’t think the endorphin rush is worth it. So, I don’t understand how hot with no flavor can win awards. It’s much easier to just throw a bunch of hot peppers together with no flavor than it is to find a delicate balance between heat and flavor.
(I do understand that working with capsaicin has its challenges.) My Nana taught me that there should be a nice balance between the two because you want something that you can eat because chile peppers, tomatoes, onions, etc. have great vitamins and nutrients your body needs. Besides if I made something “Burn-your-taste-buds-Hot” my Nana would probably come up from her grave and kill me.
20. Best burn ever?
ROY: My own creation, Cool Breeze Hot Sauce. Chili piquins and juniper berries, hot and a cooling menthol breeze across your tongue. Cool stuff.
LORENA: My own creation, Red Ripe Fire Roasted Jalapeno Hot Sauce. It’s the essence of New Mexico but not that hot.
All of our products are available on our website www.thehot1.com On our site is also a list of stores that carry our products, not a lot of them yet.
Here is a list of all the stuff we make –
Flaming Green Garlic Passion 2006 – 1st Place Scovie Award Winner **Our TOP Selling Product **
Pepitas y Camarones (Pumpkin Seeds and Shrimp)
Pepitas y Camarones Blistering Hot Version
Chipotle Black Bean and Corn Salsa
No Kissin’ Now Garlic Salsa
Raspberry Chipotle Salsa
Just Peachy Pineapple Salsa
Hatch Chili Salsa
Arizona Cactus Salsa
Antonia’s Chili Verde Salsa
Fit for a King Serrano Cilantro Salsa
Mucho Mellow Mango Salsa
Merlot Green Chili Salsa
El Diablo Habanero Salsa
Dance With the Green Devil Hot Sauce
Keep You Cryin’ Cayenne Pepper Hot Sauce
Red Ripe Fire Roasted Jalapeno Hot Sauce
Big Cajones Chipotle Hot Sauce
Borracho de Tequila y Chipotle Hot Sauce
Butt Burnin’ Habanero Hot Sauce
Cool Breeze Blazin’ Hot Sauce
Gourmet Roasted Garlic Jalapeno Sauce
Black Pepper Ale Sauce
Prickly Pear Syrup
Gourmet Honey Bourbon Barbecue Sauce
Honey Chipotle Barbeque Sauce
Prickly Pear Barbeque Sauce
Chipotle Onion Relish
Buffalo Chip Wing Sauce
Peachipotle BBQ Sauce
Habanero Peach BBQ Sauce
Plum Razzleberry BBQ Sauce
Life or Death Habanero Ketchup
Hand Stuffed Olives
Spicy Blue Cheese Stuffed
Asiago Cheese Stuffed w/Oregano and Marsalla
Feta Cheese Stuffed w/Oregano and Port
Garlic and Jalapeno Stuffed
Sun-Dried Tomato w/Fresh Basil
White Cheddar Stuffed w/Sam Adams Beer
Garlic Cream Cheese and Jalapeno Stuffed
Muenster Stuffed w/Chardonnay
Party Dip Mixes
Cha Cha Cheddar Bacon
Mesquite Smoked Onion
Roasted Garlic Jalapeno
Smoky Southwestern Sun-Dried Tomato
Habanero Roasted Garlic
High Desert Chili Pequin
Gawd Ahmighty – Blistering Hot
Spicy Sonoran Chipotle BBQ Rub and Marinade
Jalapeno Garlic Searing BBQ Rub and Marinade
Mesquite BBQ Rub and Marinade
Burnin’ Both Ends Habanero BBQ Rub and Marinade
Packaged Dry Mixes
Old World Style Spanish Rice
Chipotle Spanish Rice
Cheesy Garlic Rice
Cheesy Chipotle Rice
Spicy Cocoa Mix
Ancho Chili Brownie Mix
Habanero Brownie Mix
Mesquite Gravy Mix
Smoky Chipotle Gravy Mix
Mild Chili Mix
Chipotle Chili Mix
Spicy Hot Chili Mix
Mild Taco Seasoning Mix
Chipotle Taco Seasoning Mix
Habanero Taco Seasoning Mix
Caramel Corn Nuggets
Raspberry Chipotle Candy
Sweet Heat Peanuts
Spiced Pickled Smoked Garlic
Spiced Habanero Pepper Mix
Fiery Spicy Snackin Carrots
All Natural Real Smoked Almonds
Lorena and Roy Marshall
The SalsaKing Fine Southwestern Foods
877-THE HOT1 (843-4681)