Rhed's Hot Sauce Story written by Deja
Rhed’s Hot Sauce Roots
I (Deja) came to love hot sauce while growing up in Southern California, eating house made hot sauce from a little hole in the wall Mexican food restaurant in high school. It was only a drive- thru but it had the best burritos and the hot sauce that I have ever had. This was the inspiration for our Morita sauce. My true love of cooking with chilies began when I became the executive chef at a boutique Thai and Indonesian fusion restaurant in Manhattan Beach California where I worked with two wonderful Thai ladies.
Karsten grew up in Baton Rouge, Louisiana where hot sauce is a staple on every household and restaurant table! Crystal was one of our favorite vinegar based hot sauces and inspired us to create a more flavorful version: Rhed’s Original Hot Sauce which won a medal for Louisianna Style in 2021 at the Scovie Awards in New Mexico.
One of our favorite memories is eating the Pepper Plant Hot sauce for breakfast at Katy’s Place in Carmel, California. The Pepper Plant is loaded with chunks of garlic as it is made in Gilroy, CA (AKA: The Garlic Capital of the World). We would go to Carmel whenever we had a chance to get away for the weekend. We loved that area so much we ended up getting married in Carmel Valley at Bernardus Lodge.
First Batch of Sauce
When we moved to Rhode Island and bought our first home, we started a pepper garden in our backyard. Karsten and I have spent many hours tasting various hot peppers, sweating (and drooling) trying to decide which peppers had the best flavor profiles for the types of sauces that we wanted to make as well as grow well in the Rhode Island climate.
When we moved to Rhode Island in 2010 there weren’t any good locally made hot sauces. So we started making Rhed’s Original Hot Sauce just for ourselves, for the fun of it! Then when it turned out so well we thought we could turn this into a business.
A Week in the Life
We make and bottle our sauces 2-3 days a week, 8 hours each day. Then we label and do deliveries in between and sell our sauces at local Farmers Markets on Wednesdays and Saturdays. Besides Karsten and myself we have three other ladies who work with us part time in the kitchen and at the Farmers Markets: Jan, Lynda and Monica!
Challenges of a Hot Sauce Start-Up
One of the hardest decisions we had to make was to scale up our operation and commit to building a commercial kitchen was both exciting and scary, but we feel confident that we will be rewarded in the future. Sometimes you have to take a chance on yourself!
What Makes Rhed’s Unique
Layers of flavor, not just heat! Lots of fresh vegetables (no garlic or onion powders). We take the time to roast fresh garlic, peel and chop onions, carrots, etc...) to create fresh, flavorful, well balanced sauces. We want all of our sauces to pair with and enhance food, not mask it.
No Preservatives, No Gums, No Fillers: Only natural fermentation, vinegar and sea salt. The chili mash in all of our sauces is fermented for over two weeks before combining with the other ingredients (like changing boring cabbage into delicious sauerkraut but even better with peppers)!
Award Winning: Not only are our sauces great for everyday use, they have also won awards in national competitions: 2020 New York Hot Sauce Expo’s Screaming MiMi Awards and 2021 Scovie Awards in New Mexico.
Karsten and I created each recipe together with our combined culinary backgrounds, California and Louisiana roots!
Sourcing is one of the biggest challenges. When we first asked local farmers to grow for us they said “sure” then planted 2 rows of pepper plants, which doesn’t get you very far when you’re making gallons of hot sauce each week. Working with our farmers each year and contracting for specific amounts has definitely helped. We purchased 4,000 pounds of local peppers from Rhode Island Farms last year plus another several thousand pounds of local vegetables. We are on track to double that in 2021 with our new salsa.
Origin of the Name “Rhed’s Sauce”
Karsten is a natural red head and his nickname in highschool was “Red”. We added the “H” in Rhed’s like in the spelling of Rhode Island. Déjà vu is named after me!
Most Memorable Moment
Right now! We are in the middle of building out a new kitchen and retail space at the Farm Fresh RI building on Sims Ave in Providence. We have been renting a shared commercial kitchen at Newport Cooks in Middletown RI for the past 4 ½ years. The owner, Mary Weaver, is a good friend of mine and such a wonderful person. We feel so blessed to have been able to share Mary’s kitchen as we got our start and grew our little business into a viable company!
Now we are excited to move into our own space where we will be able to produce at a larger capacity. We will also have a small retail shop, attached to our new kitchen where customers can stop in and see what we are making and pick up a bottle or two of hot sauce! The Farm Fresh building is really cool as it is home not only to our local distributor (Market Mobile) and weekly farmers market but will also have a Café with coffee and spirits (New Harvest Coffee), Taqueria (Tallulah’s), Brewery (Providence Brewing Co.) as well as several other local producers moving in and building out their own spaces.
When you aren’t making hot sauce what are you doing?
We love exploring our beautiful Ocean State! Mountain biking, hiking, mushroom foraging crabbing and clamming. We also have two dogs (Thibodeaux and Brees)!
Where do you think your hot sauce will be 5 years from now?
Each sauce has a different growth opportunity. We believe that some of our products such as our original sauce & salsa will find their way into larger national grocery chains while some of our other products may be more relevant to specialty markets. Long term we will need to expand on our commissary kitchen, possibly open another retail space and a restaurant. We have a dream that is slowly coming to life!