Meet Your Maker #23 – Rob Burns, Scorpion Bay Hot Sauces
I’ve found that I tend to like a sauce more if I know the person behind the sauce and with Scorpion Bay Hot Sauces, it’s no exception. I’ve been emailing with Rob since early 2007 and as we exchanged various emails, it’s been great to see both his website and his sauces come to life. And the Scorpion Bay motto ” Do what you love – do it well and you will never go wrong” is one that I’ve always lived by. Now a few words from the man himself, Rob Burns:
1. WHY HOT SAUCE? WHERE DID THE IDEA COME FROM FOR YOU TO GET INVOLVED DOING THIS?
Well, I have a love for travel, and of my favorite regions to visit is Baja, Mexico. The deeper you venture, the more authentic it becomes. I’ve journeyed far and wide throughout the country’s numerous small towns and across infinite miles of dusty roads. Everywhere I’d go, I’d find myself sampling the local cuisine. Eventually curiosity got the best of me, and I’d find myself wanting to figure out how different dishes were prepared, and how the sauces they used were created.
Upon returning from one of these excursions, I’d start playing with flavors and making sauces for friends””you know, more of creating it as a gift than anything else. Eventually the requests grew so much that I wound up selling it out of necessity.
2. IF YOU HAD TO PICK A FAVORITE SAUCE OTHER THAN YOURS, WHICH WOULD IT BE?
Hmm, that’s a tough one. The truth is, I love all three! Hey, I know that sounds like a cop-out, but each sauce genuinely has it’s own unique application. My De Arbol “Taco Shop Style Hot Sauce” is a versatile all-around/all-purpose table sauce, something you can use on just about everything. The Hotacado “Avocado Hot Sauce” is great spiky addition to Baja style fish tacos. And the Chocopotle “Chipotle Hot Sauce with a Hint of Chocolate” is ideal for when you’re looking for something hot and sweet, or even for a BBQ-style glaze.
3. ANY NEW PRODUCTS WE SHOULD BE READY FOR FROM YOUR LINE?
Oh yeah, plenty. Where do I start? I actually have about 10-15 new ideas in the works. All “TOP SECRET,” of course.
4. WHERE DO YOU SEE THE FUTURE OF HOT SAUCE 5 YEARS FROM NOW? 10? 20?
Personally, I’d like to change the way people use hot sauce. More specifically, the foods they use sauces on. Once people realize that hot sauce doesn’t just have to be “peppers diluted in salt and vinegar” hot sauce producers will come up with new flavors and applications.
I want hot sauce to not just be something that people put on bad food to make it tolerable. I want to create sauces that elevate great food into excellent dishes.
5. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE SAUCE THAT YOU DON’T MAKE?
Pretty much any sauce you might find at a roadside fish taco stand in Baja. If I had to pick a commercially produced sauce, I like my friends Norman’s sauces. He has a company called “Catch a Fire”. Basically, it’s a small one-man operation. I’ve found he’s the only other person (other than myself) that’s as fanatical about quality as I am. He’s Jamaican, so naturally his sauces are super hot and have a true, authentic flavor. I also like a hot sauce called Lizano””I love the fact that every time I get a taste of it I’m instantly reminded of Costa Rica.
6. DO YOU EAT THE SAUCE YOU MAKE?
I would say I use my sauces in half of the recipes I cook. I really like to experiment and use sauces in ways you normally wouldn’t think of, like Chipotle mixed with a little chocolate sauce and poured over ice cream, or my most recent creation, “Avocado Hot Sauce Pie”. My friends went crazy when I made this one for them. Which reminds me, I’ve got to post that recipe on my site for everyone to enjoy.
7. WHAT DO YOU EAT HOT SAUCE ON?
You name it. Ice cream is the one food that often raises an eyebrow. And I actually tried it on my pancakes”¦pretty tasty!
8. WHAT SETS YOU ASIDE FROM THE OTHER HOT SAUCE PRODUCERS OUT THERE TODAY?
I think instead of going the super hot “novelty sauce” route or just your basic “table sauce”, I’ve refined my sauces to be more of a gourmet addition to foods, something that’s unique and yet incredibly versatile. I strive to make small run gourmet sauces that both accentuate and enhance great dishes.
9. WHAT IS YOUR INSPIRATION BEFORE YOU EMBARK ON A NEW CONCOCTION?
Much of the time I’ll find myself working out a recipe in my head. I know it sounds crazy, but I think of flavor combinations and actually taste them in my mind before I physically taste them.
10. OUTSIDE OF CREATING HOT PRODUCTS, WHAT ELSE KEEPS YOU OCCUPIED OR OUT OF TROUBLE?
I surf and travel whenever I can find the time. The whole premise of our company is all about exploring and discovering new cultures and the foods that represent them.
11. ANY WEIRD STORIES OR USES FOR YOUR HOT SAUCE THAT YOU WOULD LIKE TO SHARE?
Here’s one: I used to mix the De Arbol with Dr. Bronner’s Eucalyptus Organic Soap and water. I would pour the solution on my Bromeliads to repel mosquito’s that would breed in them.
12. HOW MUCH SAUCE DO YOU MAKE IN A WEEK?
About 600 cases per run. Give or take a case.
13. HOW MANY DIFFERENT RECIPES DO YOU GO THROUGH WHEN DEVELOPING A NEW SAUCE?
It usually takes me about six months to work out a recipe, start to finish. Of course, it’s a labor of love. I’m always tinkering, too. That’s simply part of the fun.
14. HOW DID YOU GET STARTED IN THE INDUSTRY?
Just making sauces for friends. The requests just became overwhelming, so I eventually had to start charging to keep from going broke.
15. WHAT IS YOUR BIGGEST CHALLENGE SO FAR?
Well, just getting the word out. The way it normally works is once someone tries a sauce they become a fan. So really it has been a matter of creating more bona fide “evangelist” for the Scorpion Bay cause.
16. WHAT IS THE MOST COMMON QUESTION YOU GET?
The often heard, perpetual “Is this hot?” I am constantly amazed how many time folks will ask this question. My response usually is, “Well, it is a Hot Sauce!” Usually you get the folks that want the insane, maniac type sauces or, on the other end of the spectrum, they have a low heat tolerance and want it super mild. My sauces usually fall somewhere in the middle””basically around a 5-7 heat scale. It’s enough to give you a little sweat but not so hot as to ruin the flavor””or, more importantly the flavor of the food you’re putting it on.
17. WHAT DO YOU WANT TO KNOW FROM THE READERS OF THE HSB?
Pretty much anything they can tell me to help raise the bar for producing gourmet hot sauces. Also, their feedback, and especially recipe suggestions. Let me know if you invent one, email it to me and I’ll include it on my website.
18. WHAT’S A TYPICAL DAY FOR YOU?
I’m your classic workaholic, so usually I wake around 7:00 a.m. I have a home office, so the commute is literally steps away. I usually surf or do some kind of exercise around six then head back to work. Often I find myself working until 2:00 to 3:00 in the morning and then do it all over the next day. It’s a lifestyle that works for me.
19. WORST BURN EVER?
Cooking Chile naked.
20. BEST BURN EVER?
Uhhhh, Cooking Chile naked?
Sauce from Scorpion Bay Hot Sauces:
Chocopotle Chipotle Hot Sauce
HotAcado Avocado Hot Sauce
De Arbol “Hole-in-the-wall taco shop style” Hot Sauce ** Review here
Scorpion Bay Hot Sauce
Would you like to be interviewed or otherwise featured on the HSB? Check out our Want to be featured page for more information. We’re waiting to hear from you!