It’s been almost 16 years since TorchBearer Sauces sprung to life through heat-loving friends and their homemade hot sauces. Owner Vid Lynch’s obsession with hot food began in high school at a “good-bye” party for a friend who was moving away. They were eating BBQ chicken, and the friend started pouring some crazy extract sauce all over his food. Vid joined in and hasn’t stopped melting his insides since.
Years later, Vid and his friend Ben (who would later become his partner in TorchBearer), each had a crop of habanero peppers they had no idea what to do with. Taking all those peppers and bottling them with some carrot, mandarin orange, and onion to preserve them, they ended up with the first sauce created for the company: Super Fancy Sultry #7. Family and friends couldn’t get enough, and the guys were convinced it might be time to try to sell their concoction. They even knew what to call themselves, as Vid had a photography and video production company named “TorchBearer” that was too perfect to not use.
Cut to April 1st, 2005 and the company was officially begun. With the paperwork in order and $10,000 worth of hot sauce to move, the boys headed down to a festival in New Iberia, Louisiana with dollar signs in their eyes. Very quickly it became apparent that no one was selling $10,000 worth of anything in New Iberia, Louisiana (especially in the concourse of a rodeo arena where this show was being held). Ben and Vid got the festival crash course right away, experiencing many issues and hardships they’ve since learned to overcome, such as “make sure you don’t bring a 20-foot banner unless you really know what you’re going to do with it” and “maybe meet and talk to other vendors about a festival before you drive for days to get there.” That sort of thing.
There were plenty of good things that came out of this trip too. The guys met some great people that were experienced in their line of work and who weren’t afraid to offer priceless advice. They saw different booth setups and took some ideas to improve their own space. There was even someone who went to the hospital over the heat one of their sauces provided (that’s a plus, right?). So, while they only made $400 - $600 dollars, a bit short of their goal, they learned so much more than they could have ever expected to.
Vid and Ben’s recipes for hot sauce got them going, but what really set them apart from other companies were the mustards, marinades, and bbqs they started creating. While folks would be intrigued by ghost peppers and scorpion peppers, many would keep coming back to that Oh My Garlic or Honey Mustard that you could serve anyone and use in anything. At festivals, it wasn’t all about being the toughest fire-eater but about what the customer liked and how they could improve everything from grilled chicken to potato salad. The guys basically found a way to appeal to everyone, and with that came success.
Years passed and things slowly got bigger and better. As shows got more profitable and stores all over started carrying TorchBearer Sauces, the crew and facility needed to expand. Scott and Andy were hired and ran shows, set up the new warehouse, and became permanent fixtures during every production. Now, after hiring Greg, Bridget, and Josh, everyone has found their specific niche, and the company continues to grow. The kitchen even has a fully functioning bottling line, and the kettle has gone from a 30 gallon to a 300 gallon.
While there’s been so many expansions and improvements, the important things haven’t changed. From the all-natural, locally-sourced ingredients to the fun bottle artwork the fans expect, Ben and Vid continue to do things like they always did. The importance of a tasty product, made with healthy, real stuff, done in a fun way has been and always will be the focus. These guys know what works. Now with 6 seasons of Hot Ones under their belt, celebrity sauce collaborations, and other, top-secret things on the horizon, the sky’s the limit for the TorchBearer team.
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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.