First, before we introduce ourselves we wanted to take time to thank everyone in the hot sauce community and a special thanks to Craft Hot Sauce for allowing us to have this opportunity. We deeply appreciate everyone allowing us to be a small part of your lives and spread a little joy in the world. We would like to share with everyone who we are at Grand Traverse (GT) Sauce Company; we are a veteran-owned artisan hot sauce company, located in Traverse City, MI. We make our sauces from fresh fire roasted peppers and vegetables to create unique blends of sauces to compliment (not over power) meals.
When we started GT Sauce Company, we knew we wanted to start a food manufacturing brand. We believe food is a powerful tool to make the world a better place while creating happiness at the same time. We are a husband and wife team that has lived and traveled around the world; eating cuisines from street food to Michelin Star restaurants on five continents and counting. The team has been working with food for over a decade, he is a food scientist and she is a self-taught chef. Being a company that puts people and planet before profit is what we are all about at GT Sauce Co. When you purchase a bottle of our hot sauce, you can feel good that we are using the proceeds to better improve the world we share.
We start with sourcing our key fresh ingredients from local and regional farms and suppliers to reduce our carbon footprint. Our pepper supplier is only a few miles down the road from our facility. Our labels are made from recycled paper and of course, our glass bottles and PET lids are recyclable. We have a zero food waste policy that sends any wasted food we create straight to a community compost.
We also give back to causes we care deeply about. A portion of our profits are given to two different charities: Mission 22 and The Pollinator Partnership. Mission 22 is an organization dedicated to reducing and eliminating veteran suicides. Our DD-214, serrano, habanero and dill sauce is a salute to our troops. The Pollinator Partnership, is an organization dedicated to saving pollinating insects and their habitats in North America. We are not done giving back either, currently, we are building a merit-based award for graduating seniors, middle school, and elementary children to help foster and cultivate food science, public health, and the culinary arts in our local community.
That is who we are as people and as a company. What we do as a company; what we love to do is flavor. Flavor first, heat second is our mantra as we think about our hot sauces. We found that many of the sauces on the market today could be best described as hot vinegar or so hot that it would overpower a meal. Almost none of the sauces on the market are made from fresh peppers and vegetables, most are from powders. By making our hot sauces from fresh peppers it makes them thicker and more flavorful. So, we got to work developing a few sauces that we thought could pair well with meals and could be used as both a table sauce and an ingredient.
We started a dinner club about a year earlier, where we invited friends (foodies) and family over to a monthly gathering. Where we would test our skills in the kitchen, we are both self-taught and never really worked in a restaurant setting. But, we love cooking and sharing food with people. We had a few rules to the dinner club, the most important being; as little to no premade food, everything from scratch. We made L Arpege Eggs, crepes, crab boils, even our bread for the meals was baked by us. Making ingredients, like mustard, wine, beer, ketchup, and yes hot sauce has always interested us.
We started preparing for our dinner club with menu in hand, we decided that we were going to make the hot sauce for this particular month’s menu. Problem was, we had never made a hot sauce before. So we researched several recipes and styles. We followed the recipe, against our better judgment and it was a complete flop. No flavor at all, runny, and the heat was extreme.
My wife and I, sharing the hot sauce that lacked flavor, began dipping chips in the sauce and munching down. Contemplating how truly bad this sauce was, and if we should break our own golden rule of dinner club and go buy sauce for the next day’s meal. That is when a light bulb went off in my head, I looked at her and said, we should do this professionally. She of course laughed, but I knew we could do better, a lot better.
After that dinner club, we went and read several books and of course websites about making hot sauce, styles, and heat. We went out and bought fresh ingredients and began making sauces at night. We learned through some trial and error how to make a hot sauce. We learned that habaneros are where most people’s heat level is. Which is great, because the habanero seems to bring the heat behind the flavor when you make a sauce. This allows us the ability to add flavors like dill or pineapple that complement the meal as the heat adds that finishing touch.
That was about eleven months ago. We now have a facility, where we produce great flavored hot sauces, we have over 50 wholesale locations and have learned a ton about running our factory and manufacturing company. We direct to store distribution, which I believe is a key strategy that we continue to use to build relationships with all of our customers.
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Cottage Lane Kitchen was founded by me in 2010, and it isn't only my business name, but also refers to a secret lane in Chapel Hill, NC where our family homestead was built in the 1950s. Four generations of my family have cooked and preserved spicy peppers out of love and tradition in that kitchen.
The last homemade batch of my family's spicy pepper relish was made by my Grandfather in the early 1990s. He grew chilies around the outside of the house and harvested and pickled them during my summer visits. I remember him watering the empty tin cans he buried beside each pepper plant.
Normally the Craft Hot Sauce Podcast interviews hot sauce makers all over the world. This episode is more of a riff from Brian the host about some of the things his hot sauce company Craic Sauce got up this summer.