Meet Your Maker #21 – Denzel of Denzel’s Gourmet Foods
For this Meet Your Maker Monday feature, we’re bringing the HSB a little more of that Canadian heat. Who knew there were so many fiery Canadian manufacturers? To date we’ve seen the great white heat from Fired Up Foods, Psycho Mark, Muso, the Peppermaster, Sam Shivji & Uncle Big. Today, Denzel Sandberg of Denzel’s Gourmet Foods joins the line up and tells us a little more about his one man operation that was recently brought back into production. Look for reviews of Denzel’s sauces soon!
HSB Interview Questions:
1. Why hot sauce? It seemed like a good idea at the time. I’d been using sauces for years and I suppose trying to make some was the next logical step.
Where did the idea come from for you to get involved doing this? At first my sauces were pretty brutal, they were just plain bad. Then I was introduced to a woman from Trinidad that was making hot sauce locally. She showed me how to make a basic Trinidadian hot sauce. No recipe, just adjusting and tasting as you go. This little bit of knowledge made a huge difference in the quality of my hot sauce. It was actually edible, heck people even told me they liked it. So I started selling it in my music stores and at the local farmers market in Prince George, BC. It didn’t take long to realize that I was on to something.
2. If you had to pick a favorite sauce yours, which would it be? I think it would have to be the Gourmet Habanero. It’s my original sauce, and probably the most versatile. It’s a straight up Caribbean Red Habanero pepper sauce. It goes good on anything.
3. Any new products we should be ready for from your line? Well I’ve been test marketing a few things locally up here. I’ve got a couple chipotle hot sauces that I’d like to release soon. One is a nectarine chipotle and the other is a saskatoon chipotle. I’ve also been working on a chicken wing sauce, kind of a Louisiana style sauce really and a barbecue sauce made with chipotles and an organic stout beer brewed locally. That’s going over real well, however there’s a few production issues to iron out with that one.
4. Where do you see the future of hot sauce 5 years from now? 10? 20? I’d have to say the future looks bright indeed. People are eating healthier, and more adventurously. Also they don’t make all those cooking shows cause people eat out all the time. People are interested in foods from different cultures and countries and aren’t afraid to try them. Many of these cultures use peppers extensively in their cuisine. They also have their own regional hot sauces and condiments. I think you’re going to see more traditional sauces from around the world being made more readily available to everyone. And of course there will no doubt be a bunch of new concoctions that don’t fit any mold.
5. What is your favorite sauce that you don’t make? I’ve got a couple. I really like Marie Sharps, and Trinidad Hot Sauce. Both are Caribbean Style, vinegar based, and the flavour of the pepper really comes through. I’m not one of those that get’s turned off by vinegar based sauces. As most Caribbean sauces were initially used to help preserve food, the acidity from the vinegar was essential, and I happen to like that.
6. Do you eat the sauce you make? Most definitely. I like the hotter ones best, although I do eat all of them.
7. What do you eat hot sauce on? Just about everything. There are no rules, although I tend to use hot sauces more as a condiment than a cooking ingredient.
8. What sets you aside from the other hot sauce producers out there today? That’s a tough question. I don’t pay much attention to what other producers are doing. There are some great products out there. I’m sure that there are a lot of producers that are of the same mindset that I am. All I can say is that I’m very passionate about what I do. I do have a few guidelines I follow. I use the best and freshest ingredients I can find. I try and use raw ingredients, for example I make my own chipotles, I don’t use any preprocessed foods. I suppose I make sauces to satisfy my own tastes. I just hope that other people like the same sort of flavours that I do. One of the great things about this business is that the product can be a creative expression, there’s a bit of me in them bottles. Not everyone likes the same things otherwise there would only be one hot sauce and whoever sold it cheapest would get all the business. There’s lots of room for everyone in this business.
9. What is your inspiration before you embark on a new concoction? Lately I’ve really been concentrating on using locally grown ingredients. I live in the Okanagan Valley in BC, where I have access to an abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables of real high quality. It’s definitely seasonal and that presents some unique challenges, but using the local stuff is definitely a priority with me right now.
10. Outside of creating hot products, what else keeps you occupied or out of trouble? I golf and fish quite a bit, do some hiking and backpacking, and I have a mobile smoker barbecue that I take on the road to music festivals, rodeos, fall fairs and the such. I sell brisket, pulled pork, chicken, ribs, etc to the masses at these events. It’s a ton of work, but it’s real fun.
11. Any weird stories or uses for your hot sauce that you would like to share? I’ve used it diluted as a pesticide for my garden with good results.
12. How much sauce do you make in a week? Lately it’s been quite bit. I recently had to make my own production facility, and things took forever to get done. I ended up being down for 10 months. I was so far behind I was in front. I think if everything is running right I can make 700-800 cases per week.
13. How many different recipes do you go through when developing a new sauce? I usually get it right on the fourth or fifth try.
14. How did you get started in the industry? Enough people had been telling me that I made good sauces that I thought I’d take a chance and jump in.
15. What is your biggest challenge so far? Maybe it’s my location or price, but I have yet to be able to line up a distributor for the US. I do a fair amount of business to individuals in the US through my website and I do sell to a couple of internet marketers, but US distribution on the whole has been a problem.
16. What is the most common question you get? What do I use them on? People sometimes have difficulty imagining what a hot sauce should be used for. I usually tell them that there are no rules, and they can use them on anything.
17. What do you want to know from the readers of the HSB? Feedback would be great. If anyone out there has tried my products I’d sure like to hear their opinions of them.
18. What’s a typical day for you? I don’t think I have typical days. I’m pretty much a one man show here, so trying to find enough time to do everything can be a challenge. I’ve also just moved into my own facility after being down for 10 months, so setting up the office, kitchen, warehouse and trying to get caught up with the backorders with new business coming in takes up pretty much all my time right now.
19. Worst burn ever? I ate close to a third of a bottle of Dave’s Insanity on a burrito. Haven’t been the same since.
20. Best burn ever? Same time.
Denzel’s Gourmet Foods Ltd.
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