“I had planted this garden and grew all these peppers just because I didn’t have any kind of sense of garden planning,” he explained. “I was left with a whole bunch of peppers, and I had no clue what to do with them.”
So Van Dorn tried his hand at making hot sauce. Today, he owns the Red Hot Robot Hot Sauce Company with business partner Eric Borland, a friend from high school. He describes the flavor of their hot sauce as a vinegar-based, Mexican-style sauce. Van Dorn spent about a year experimenting before he got the recipe right.
“It’s got roasted peppers, it’s got onions, it’s got cilantro [and] garlic,” he said. “It really is kind of unique. In terms of the heat range, you’re probably looking at about like a Tabasco level.”
He explained for the past decade, hot sauce creators tended to focus solely on making hot sauce the hottest it can get, but he wanted the substance of his sauce to be in the flavor.
“It’s easy to sit there and make a really hot hot sauce, but it’s harder to make something that tastes good,” he said.
Van Dorn added it took about another year to get approved through the Food and Drug Administration and the Department of Agriculture and to find commercial kitchen space to produce the sauce. The company started selling the product in November.
“The first two months have been great,” Van Dorn said.
“We’re in five locations already. We’re the featured sauce at Pozole, which is this awesome Mexican restaurant there in Virginia Highland. We’re starting to expand out now. We’re pretty confident in where we’re going. It’s going to take a little while, but we’re pretty excited.”
Customers can purchase the sauce at any of the five locations in metro Atlanta or from the company’s website. It retails in the $5 range, Van Dorn added. He hopes to have the sauce sold in larger-scale markets, such as Whole Foods or Publix, by spring.
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