Hopefully you read my review of Vaquero’s Dipping Sauce awhile back. My family has been loving this sauce and trying it on everything! I’m always curious when I try a new product to learn “the story” behind it. A big “Thank You” to Michelle Sassen for taking the time to answer some questions!
1. So how long have you been doing this?
I have been making this sauce for years! I can’t really remember exactly when it started. I’m not a chef, foodie, or anything special. I just grew up in the sticks where we learned to make do with what we had on hand. Glean all you can from people, magazines, and the internet then use it and adapt it to your advantage. My husband had hounded me for years to bottle it and to take it to market. I resisted. He finally wore me down in March 2011. After much research and development, we were able to finally run the first production batch of 2000 lbs. on 3/2/12.
2. How did you get started?
I was verbally given an unclear recipe that was emulated from Mustard’s Grill in Napa Valley. By unclear I mean that to me it was unclear. I didn’t know what “BBQ spices” were so I grabbed Montreal seasoning out of my cupboard and used that and when the recipe said that the chilies were ground in a coffee grinder giving it “just a hint of coffee”, I decided I certainly wasn’t about to cross contaminate my coffee with chili by using my coffee grinder to grind the chilies, I just scooped the freshly ground coffee directly into the sauce. Chilies were ground in the old coffee grinder set aside for spices only! I played around with the ratio until I finally found the perfect sauce.
3. How are sales going?
Considering the time I have had to put into it, surprisingly well. During this whole process of bringing Vaquero’s to the mass market, my husband had a motorcycle accident which put much of our lives on hold and has given our lives quite a few ups & downs. Our customer base is mostly in small local stores in Mendocino County where we are based, on our website, a friends pecan farm stand/online (Superior Pecans), and online with Bourbon & Boots.
4. What was the biggest surprise/challenge getting this to market?
The biggest surprise to me is that so many people like it and are willing to buy and/or sell it.
The biggest challenge getting this to market as a complete newcomer to the food business is learning how to do so while doing the bookkeeping for my husband’s business and working 30 +/- hours a week for a physical therapy office.
5. Are the other sauces or products in your future?
Yes! I have a mild version for those who don’t like it as spicy, an Asian Fusion sauce where east meets west, a Vaquero’s BBQ rub based on the sauce, a Smokey Montreal rub which I stumbled on while creating Vaquero’s BBQ Rub, and what my youngest daughter has named “MOMtreal” rub which is my personal version of Montreal. Unfortunately, as many know – it takes considerable time, research, and funding to get each product to market. I have everything past the research and development level. Nutritional values are ready. Art work is in progress. As for funding, well I haven’t been able to do just yet. I have high expectations that in the not too distant future I will be able to bring all my products to the public.
6. What’s your favorite recipe or use of your sauce?
I personally, eat, drink, and sleep this sauce. But I love it on chicken. Barbecued of course and with EXTRA sauce in a small dipping bowl to dip prior to popping it into my mouth. I also love pulled pork (or chicken) sandwiches.
DRR: Thanks again to Michelle for taking time out to tell us more about the story behind Vaquero’s. You can visit their website here: VAQUERO’s WEBSITE. I can’t wait to try the other goodies that Michelle has in store for us!