It all began around a table.
Kyle Schumacher and Ivan Gracia are close friends — so close they refer to themselves as their chosen family – and frequently share meals together, at home or at Salmon Arm’s Cantina Vallarta Restaurant, which Gracia owns and operates with his wife Jamie.
Schumacher developed an instant fixation on Gracia’s homemade habanero pepper-based hot sauce, which is made entirely from fresh, raw ingredients. It is based on the recipe Gracia learned from his mother in Mexico.
Schumacher was so thrilled with the sauce, he asked if Gracia would show him how to make it.
And as they ate together one night, Schumacher pitched the idea of bottling and selling the sauce.
“It was all based on his mother’s cooking,” says Schumacher. “But they didn’t make it from a recipe, it just was put in some of this and some of that until they got the flavour they wanted. So I began to watch Ivan make the sauce and learn from him.”
Gracia says while he cooked, Schumacher got technical with the ingredients list.
“I would never measure, it was two handfuls of this and a pinch of that,” says Gracia, noting that’s how his family cooks in Mexico. “So we got started and, about 100 litres later, we had the recipe.”
Caliente Habanero Hot Sauce is unique because it is raw and fresh, which is new to the market.
It is prepared in the Cantina Vallarta kitchen using the freshest, most local ingredients possible – as supporting local farmers is part of the company’s vision. As well, the sauce has no chemicals or emulsifiers added.
“It is real, whole foods. That is very important to us,” says Schumacher.
“The beauty of the sauce is really in its simplicity, just fresh raw vegetables and spices, put together in a certain process that makes the flavour so unique,” says Schumacher, who adds this is the only bottled raw hot sauce they know of in Canada. “It doesn’t taste of vinegar or like any other bottled hot sauce out there, it has a depth of flavour that truly needs to be sampled.”
While the sauce can add zip to almost any meal from chili to tacos and stir fries, a number of customers are eating it straight out of the bottle with tortilla chips.
The company is also growing quickly. The sauce is now available in 30 locations across the province and is currently in the approval process for sale in Save On Foods grocery stores.
In Salmon Arm, you can sample Caliente Habanero Hot Sauce on any of the meals served at Cantina Vallarta Restaurant, or purchase it at Windmill Meats, DeMille’s Farm Market, Pedro’s, Askew’s Foods or Village West Urban Market. It is also available in Enderby, Kelowna, Vernon, Kamloops, Sicamous, Armstrong and the Lower Mainland. For a complete list of locations, see the company’s website at www.calientehotsauceco.ca.