Los Angeles magazine
BEST OF L.A. 2008
August 2008, page 138
HOT SAUCE MAKER
EXPERT: Almost 30 years ago, JD Cowles began
experimenting with different spices to use in a
sauce for his homemade buffalo wings. Today his
small Venice-based company All Spice Cafe makes
the best hot sauces we’ve ever had, in robust
flavors like chipotle-garlic and cayenne-habanero.
Not a drop of flavor is sacrificed for the sake of
heat–but the peppers will leave you panting.
Cowles’s sauces can be found at gourmet shops
around Southern California.
>> How does an independent sauce get into stores? For me, it came
down to giving away a lot of free hot sauce. I gave the owner of
Stroh’s Gourmet, Jason Stroh, a bottle of my cayenne-habanero to
get his opinion. The next time I saw him, he asked for a couple of
cases. The bigger stores are trickier, but individual Whole Foods
stores will give local purveyors a shot.
>> What’s the right balance between heat and flavor? It has to taste
good and then have plenty of heat. I’ve had too many sauces that are
so hot, you can’t finish your meal–and they don’t taste very good.
What a waste! Start out with good flavor, and the heat can be
added later. The reverse isn’t true. If it’s too hot and doesn’t taste
good,it’s hard to recover.
>> Can you judge a sauce by its label? Those wacky labels are more
of a novelty than anything else; you have no idea what the sauces
taste like. Many of the gourmet stores will have some open bottles in
a refrigerator for you to taste. Make sure to read the ingredients
before you try. Many of them have pepper extract, which is
superconcentrated. Be careful!
>> What is the world’s hottest pepper? The bhut jolokia from
northeast India was confirmed by Guinness World Records as being
the hottest chile in the world. It’s about twice as hot as the previous
world-record holder, the red savina habanero that’s cultivated in
>> Is hot sauce a fetish? I think addiction is more like it. When hot
peppers reach the tongue, endorphins are released, which creates a
feeling of euphoria. Your mouth can be on fire, but you can’t stop
>> Is there anything hot sauce can’t go on? A true chile head will say
no, but we know better than that.