Here’s how two Keys masters came to create the hot sauces they love:
Meet Justin Lee.
In college, Lee would often get hot sauces as gifts.
“I had so many I was collecting them, so I started mixing and making my own,” said Lee. “I use to carry it around in a Patron bottle, until people started asking for it.”
Eventually he started growing peppers, cooking and experimenting. By 2003, his recipe was essentially mastered.
“When I was playing in Fort Lauderdale, the restaurant our band played at kept insisting I start a company,” said Lee. “It seemed like a good idea, and mainly I just needed to have enough stock to supply myself, friends and family.”
So in 2009 he started Hot and Tasty LLC, and Bone Lee Gourmet Hot Sauce was made available for purchase. Lee says his savory hot sauce has been designed to be on every table and every counter top in the country.
“It was my personal recipe, and as soon as I started making it, I immediately got picked up,” said Lee.
Originally, the recipe had to be toned down. Thankfully, Lee keeps much of his recipe simple, with most of the secret resting solely in the peppers and vinegar he uses.
And then something completely unexpected happened: Bone Lee Gourmet caught fire among hot sauce connoisseurs.
Both nationally and internationally recognized now, some 2,000 bottles sell every 90 days.
“I’m big in Switzerland, Singapore, England and Canada,” said Lee. “Anybody who likes to eat, I want to know them.”
Moving forward, Bone Lee is planning to launch new sauces, Bone Lee Gourmet Mellow and Bone Lee Gourmet Reserve – the hotter stuff, which Lee mostly prefers.
Meet Brian Dougherty
Dougherty earned the nick name Senor Pelon (which translates to Mr. Hairless) while working in a local kitchen and fooling around with a mostly Latino cooking staff.
“I’m a good cook, but no chef. I’m just a guy who cooks and enjoys it,” said Dougherty.
Most of his general restaurant knowledge came from working in food and beverages since his early teens. Dougherty says he’s held every restaurant position at some point or another, from dish washer to manager.
Add saucier to that list.
It started one day when Dougherty couldn’t find anything in the store that was “worth a darn.”
“Either it was too sugary or too salty,” he said.
Having worked in smoke houses in Georgia, Colorado, Texas, Virginia, and the Carolinas, Dougherty began playing with spices to achieve the taste he desired. Senor Pelon’s first product, the BrainRub Dry Rub/Chili Powder, was born.
The southern style cumin-based seasoning gets its kick from half a dozen different dried chili peppers, along with other traditional spices, like garlic and oregano. It’s ideal for those who like a little heat.
“If you get a bit with a pepper in your bite, it’ll bite you back,” laughed Dougherty. “I have a nice little amalgam; my line or products aren’t necessarily one direction. I brought everything I learned together and now it’s just kind of me.”
Next came the LargoRado BBQ sauce to marry up to the rub, followed by the Marco Pollo all-purpose marinade. Then, with a little help from his Cuban friends, Doughtery created the Mojo Secado, a traditional Cuban mojo marinade recipe deconstructed and built as a dry spice.
But perhaps the most unusual of Senor Pelon’s sauces is the Limeanero Key Lime Habanero Sauce. The sauce was born out of necessity, as guests visiting the Keys would often ask for a key lime based hot sauce.
WHERE TO BUY
You can find Senor Pelon sauces and seasonings at senorpelon.com, or at Shell World, Island Wholesale Meats, the Sandal Factory, Olive Morada, Snappers Oceanfront Restraunt, and Key Largo Chocolates.
Bone Lee Gourmet hot sauce is available at bonelees.com, or at the Florida Keys Farmers Market, Martinis Fine Wine and Spirits, the Trading Post, the Whistle Stop’s liquor store, the Island Store at Caloosa Cova, Olive Morada, Trade Winds Liquors, and Bayview Park farmers markets on Thursdays.