Know Your People Sunday, September 08, 2013
Getting to Know NW Elixir’s Andrew Garrett
You’ve probably tasted Chef Andrew’s food (he’s worked the kitchens at 23 Hoyt and Cafe Nell) but you can increasingly find his presence in lots of restaurants around town (including ours)—or at least in those establishments wise enough to carry bottles of NW Elixir, his local (and national) award-winning lines of hot sauce.
We talked to Chef Andrew about hot sauce, when to use it and when to back off the heat.
Of all things, why hot sauce and only hot sauce?
I grew up on a farm in Sonoma and ate a lot of spicy food. As my culinary career grew, I didn’t really see a lot of hot sauces I could use in every application. I have 25 different sauces I use at home, but it’s really hard to cook with any of them, as they all have xanthum gum, refined or cane sugars, gluten, artificial preservatives, and other ingredients that don’t allow for a lot of uses other than topical. I wanted to create a sauce I could use as an ingredient, one with has many, many uses.
What makes a good hot sauce?
Acidity, something with some character, like red or white wine vinegar, And you have to pick peppers that will deliver the flavor and the heat. Now sweetness, this is where a lot of sauces lose me—they’re full of way too much refined sugar or cane sugar or honey, and you get this super sweet acidic sauce that just overpowers food. There needs to be a very careful balance.
When do you know it’s time to back off the heat?
As a chef it’s important for me that the food I prepare can be enjoyed by all my guests. The same can be said about heat. Although my sauces have heat, they are more about the flavor. You won’t find me messing with a Carolina Reaper sauce.
On what dishes do you put your Hott Sauce No. 1, the one we carry?
This is really my catch-all sauce, I had never planned on more than one hot sauce, so I wanted to create something that would cover a lot of cuisines. I use this sauce as a finishing sauce in soups, I whip it into butter and rub grilled corn with it. I make ice cream with a caramel-hot sauce swirl. I use it for salad dressings, tacos, eggs, fried chicken batter, chocolate cake. The list goes on and on.