Geoff Rhyne was working as a chef at the Ordinary in Charleston, S.C., when he developed a mouth-watering hot sauce to complement the oysters and other dishes served out of his kitchen. He got a glimpse of how much customers loved it when he noticed bottles of his Red Clay Hot Sauce disappearing from the tables.
“The Ordinary is a high-end caliber restaurant. Customers would spend $200 on dinner and then steal the hot sauce off the table,” said Rhyne.
He tried many different peppers as he was creating a hot sauce, but finally honed in on Fresno chili peppers. He ferments them in bourbon barrels from High Wire Distilling in Charleston and Green Briar Distillery in Nashville.
“I’m a Southern guy and love all things Southern. Hot sauce is a very Southern thing and I’m really proud of what we have done here. Once people taste it, they say, “Holy cow, this is delicious,” he said.
“There’s a hot sauce boom, but a lot are trying to be a shocker and set your mouth on fire. I just want to give people something they will enjoy. Instead of overpowering foods, my hot sauce accentuates it.”
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A customer approached him about taking it to market and that became a reality in the fall of 2014. They rolled out the product in August at Leon’s Oyster Shop in Charleston, and then unveiled a website for online sales in October.
“We’re in close to 20 locations in Charleston,” Rhyne said, “And 40 nationwide—from Charleston to New York to Chicago to Colorado. We’re probably in six or seven restaurants, and the rest are gourmet grocers or stores of that nature. We’ll have a big roll out in Williams & Sonoma this summer.”
Creating a popular food product came just at the right time in Rhyne’s life. After working as a chef for 15 years, he now devotes his attention to building his brand while spending as much time as possible with his 9-month-old son, Jackson.
“No matter where I am in life, my number one objective is to be a great father,” he added. “Chefs sacrifice a lot in the way of family.”
He’s currently working on some new products including a hotter variety of hot sauce and a green chili sauce. They are also drying for pepper powder.
“We only purchase peppers grown in the South. Seeds from our first batch are sprouting now and a local farm is cultivating for us. We love showing off the South.”