Meet Your Maker #8 – Dave Hirschkop
Throughout the years that HSB has been around there have been countless chili-heads, manufacturers, pepper producers and all people of all facets of anything food related visiting, reading and posting just about anything (and then some) about hot food culture.
And through the years there have been comments about a particular manufacturer, reported sightings, and FBI cover-ups over the where abouts of one elusive figure. Dave Hirschkop – one of the true originators and legends among the hot sauce realm.
Sit back, grab a drink and something spicy, and enjoy as Dave talks about his sauce, his views, and what is new and up in coming in the Insanity World!
(The answers below are straight from Dave’s fingers – facts have not been checked)
1. Why hot sauce? Where did the idea come from for you to get involved doing this?
I owned a restaurant called Burrito Madness in College Park, MD. We made creative wraps and Taqueria foods. There were far too many drunks coming into the restaurant so in 1992 I decided to make the world’s hottest sauce. I used an extract to make the sauce hotter than anything on the market and the drunks were brought under control. We also had a lot of fun. It was the first super hot sauce marketed.
2. If you had to pick a favorite sauce yours, which would it be?
My favorite sauce that we make is our Gingerbread Cream, which is fantastic. The product that I am currently eating too much of is our new Smokin’ Nuts. These BBQ chipotle nuts are addictive. If you meant hot sauce, then I am partial to our Hurtin Habanero or our Garlic Chile Sauce. They both have flavors that really bring out the best in some foods.
3. Any new products we should be ready for from your line?
As I mentioned we just launched Dave’s Smokin Nuts. We are also preparing to launch our private reserve for the 12th year since we pioneered producing hand signed limited edition sauces. It is the hottest yet. We are also looking forward to a super limited edition sauce that we will be launching this fall. There will only be 100 to 200 bottles and the packaging will be incredible. On top of that we are launching our Lucky Nuts this fall. These nuts have a special feature to them that people will find very funny and tasty. (I happened to see these puppies at the Fancy Foods Show – every package has a few super hot nuts mixed in ~Nick) Finally, we will be launching more miniature packs this fall to go with our mini four pack.
4. Where do you see the future of hot sauce 5 years from now? 10? 20?
Hot sauces will get more ingrained in U.S. and global culture. The number of people consuming spicy foods will increase. The diversity of ways that they consume spicy foods will increase. The lines between hot sauces and other sauces that are hot will continue to blur. Asian, African, and South American sauces will become more familiar as will sauces that combine different geographical and ethnic influences.
5. What is your favorite sauce that you don’t make?
I like Huy Fong Siracha Sauce. I wish it was 100% natural, but it’s tasty.
6. Do you eat the sauce you make?
As head of QC I eat it all the time. I usually tend to eat our new products and forget the older ones.
7. What do you eat hot sauce on?
I like hot sauce on the usual suspects: burritos, enchiladas, Asian dipping sauces, pasta, chile, etc. I do not like them as eye drops.
8. What sets you aside from the other hot sauce producers out there today?
I was the first producer to make a super hot sauce, which can only be done with extracts. I was the first to make a hand signed reserve. I was the first to make an Adjustable Heat Hot Sauce. I have one of the largest selections of sauces under our brand. I did not see a trend and try to cash in, but make my products because it’s fun and I feel like we really are making people’s lives better. I also have less hair and am less employable than other hot sauce producers.
9. What is your inspiration before you embark on a new concoction?
I have too much time on my hands so ideas pop into my head. My friends and co-workers tend to tell me that my ideas aren’t so good, but once in a while I slip one through. Most ideas do start with a question, “what if”?
10. Outside of creating hot products, what else keeps you occupied or out of trouble?
I have three kids and a wonderful wife, love rafting, working out and pursuing unusual projects. Last year I swam from Alcatraz as part of a triathlon, one year I bicycled across the U.S. for charity, this year I am trying to perfect my land sled.
11. Any weird stories or uses for your hot sauce that you would like to share?
My memory stinks for specific stories so we will start posting them on my site soon. Generally a number of people seem to use Insanity as an animal control device, a sexual aid, a grease remover, barnacle remover, pain killer, practical joke and some people actually eat it.
12. How much sauce do you make in a week?
On a good week we make 50,000 -75,000 bottles of sauce. We have exceeded this at times and have also dipped below it.
13. How many different recipes do you go through when developing a new sauce?
There is a huge range depending upon the type of sauce, type of ingredients, our experience with that item, etc. It can be anywhere from 5 to 100. With experience we tend towards the lower end of the scale nowadays.
14. How did you get started in the industry?
Refer to question one.
15. What is your biggest challenge so far?
The biggest challenge is trying to stay focused and not produce too many crazy products. There are so many ideas that I love and maybe 72 other people would too.
16. What is the most common question you get?
Why? Some people also ask how or how long?
17. What do you want to know from the readers of the HSB?
What would they like for me to produce? How can I improve what Dave’s Gourmet does or help them better? Also, what is the winning number of the next California Lottery?
18. What’s a typical day for you?
One of my wives wakes me up with a gentle massage, breakfast in bed arrives, my kids calmly sit with me, a long hot shower, work at the desk for an hour, four hour martini lunch, work in the kitchen for an hour, golf with my buddies, gourmet dinner, shoulder rub, live entertainment at my home. This assumes that I am not traveling the world or rafting. If you believe that schedule, please call me about a land investment. Actually I am up early, go to the gym, go to work, play with the munchkins, do what my wife tells me to, and go to bed.
19. Worst burn ever?
I had a cyst in my mouth where the nerves intersect and they cauterized it. Ouch
20. Best burn ever?
After having your mouth cauterized all other burns are good. I really like when it is too hot outside and you eat some chiles to cool down. I also love spicy ice cream combinations.
Dave’s Gourmet, Inc.
Palette Fine Foods and Chile Today Hot Tamale
2000 Mckinnon Ave., Bldg. 428, #5
San Francisco, CA 94124
“Dave’s Condiments and Salsas are legendary”
The Washington Post