An Interview with Chad Lowcock of Race City Sauce Works
For how long have you been making hot sauce?
Just over 10 years or so
What are your most popular products?
Right now our “Dirty Green” Roasted Poblano Vinaigrette is on fire along with Pandora, one of our sauces in our tribute to the 2012 Mayan Prophecy. Our 98 Octane Ghost Pepper Reserve and Lucky Dog Smoked Habanero Honey Mustard are always crowd favorites.
How did you get started making hot sauce?
Have been a chef for almost 20 years now in all areas of foodservice, primarily in country clubs. I would dabble here and there with chiles that I was growing or that I would get in form purveyors for certain events. Nothing too crazy spicy, but rather closer to true condiment style packed with flavor. It was during my time in a Health Spa/Resort up in the North East that I really got into making sure everything was as fresh and lower in salt as I could get them.
When did you go commercial?
Summer of 2009
How many bottles of hot sauce do you produce a year?
Roughly around 20-25K
Do you have a preferred chili pepper as an ingredient?
I like them all really. They all have certain elements that work for a variety of different reasons. Would have to say right now, bhuts of any color are my favorite. They have such a richness that they provide to a sauce while still giving a good manageable heat. Currently have been using and experimenting with 7 pots as opposed to the popular Trinidad Scorpion. I am just not a big fan of its flavor for it to really stand out on its own. Almost piney and citric. Whereas 7 pots have that same heat but at least to me, fuller flavor profile that has a broad palate for experimenting with.
Aside from chili peppers, what do you feel is the key ingredient(s) in making the perfect hot sauce?
Really anything that has the ability to balance the acidity needed in making a sauce. Whether it’s a preserve, fresh herb or spice. We often use various alcohols or liquors as a flavoring agent along with the same methods you use when making beer, wine and spirits. The same methods in refining those beverages can be used in sauce making as well
Is there a special process you follow in making your hot sauces?
Just let it flow baby! I will usually get a base ingredient or two in my mind and then just wonder through the pantry, pulling from years of flavor matching while in the restaurant business. I am someone who believes that food cultures can be blended, but just as long as you know how to manipulate the mesh of flavors. Who says there is no such thing as a good Chinese Mexican dish?
Do you follow a particular philosophy to making hot sauces?
Same philosophy I have used for years while in food and told to many a cook that I taught. That is to never be afraid of the food and ingredients. Fear closes the mind. You will fail and sometimes miserably, but you can’t be afraid of that failure as it limits the thought process and strangles creativity. No every single person is going to like every product you make, it purely impossible.
Do you have any other favorite spicy foods?
LOVE a good curry, whether or not it’s Thai or Indian. I could also live off of street tacos that you get in Mexico. If it makes you sick, oh well. It tasted damn good going down!
Do you have any advice for would-be hot sauce makers making sauces at home?
Experiment, experiment and experiment some more. There are so many ways to get ingredients nowadays that there is no reason that new flavors and ideas cannot be developed.
Do you have any basic/favorite hot sauce recipes to share?
Honestly, I don’t. It’s not like I don’t want to share, it’s that I don’t write anything down. When I am cooking, I just wing it. Take things I know that will work or that I like with a particular dish and go to town.
Imagine this sad reality: If you could have only one chili pepper the rest of your life, which would you choose?
If your life could be turned into a movie, who would you like to have play YOU on the big screen? What might the movie TITLE be? (NOTE: I'm a produced screenwriter, so this could really happen!)
Dennis Leary. “Shut Up and Eat It!” In tribute to every pain in the butt person who dares to walk into someone’s restaurant and I don’t mean Applebee’s or something on that level. But a Restaurant where someone has put blood, sweat and tears into designing and creating dishes for you to expand your gastronomic horizons with, and then go in and choose a dish, then butcher the hell out of it because they are afraid they may not like it… but I digress..
Any other parting thoughts?
I am just grateful for all of the great friends and colleagues that this industry and in essence, family has given. In no other business do you see people sharing freely the ideas that get them going and all of the successes and disappointments that go along. Looking forward to a nice long ride with everyone! And if you’re looking to join, be open minded, strong willed, determined and free in thoughts and you will do just fine.
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