Joe Soit from Halifax owns Sweet Mama Sauce
HALIFAX – It’s sweet, but spicy. Subtle, but tasty. New, but classic.
Looking at a bottle, Sweet Mama sauce could easily be mistaken for one of the tens of thousands of types of hot sauces on tables around the world today. But Joe Ethier, a Halifax resident, has managed to give a new twist to a once niche product that has exploded in popularity and saturated the market over the past five years.
“I don’t like hot sauce,” he said recently Tuesday morning as he stood over a pot of boiling Fresno peppers. “The ones on the shelf are too vinegar or too peppery, and I wanted to see if I could make one I like.”
And in this he succeeded. Ethier talks about his three hot sauces as if they were his fourth child: he knows everything about them and wants to brag about them to everyone he meets. But it’s not just the chef who never tires of it, it’s the gourmets of the South Shore.
“I really like seeing people’s reactions. As soon as they taste it, they say, ‘Wow, I’ve never had a hot sauce like that,’” said Ethier. “This immediate reaction – they know exactly what they want to go home and put on – makes all the hours and the work worth it.”
Ethier was the chef at Cheever Tavern in Norwell when he decided to try making his own version of Nashville’s famous hot chicken sandwich, which is known for its spicy, high vinegar sauce. He wanted to give his creation a boost – playfully called the Norwell Hot Chicken Sandwich – and spent almost two years perfecting the recipe which is now the original Sweet Mama Sauce.
“People were eating the sandwich and paying their bill they were like, ‘Can I buy this? This is the best hot sauce I’ve ever had,” he said. “With each table I was bringing in $ 10 or $ 20 more, and that’s when the entrepreneur in me really took off.”
He left Cheever in December and in January he was making and bottling the original sauce for his family and friends and then for their family and friends. During the summer he was working on the farmer’s market and festival scene, and since August he has launched two more sauces under the brand, Black Label habanero and Hots Mayo.
They all bear the name Sweet Mama but are distinctly different.
The original is sweet and has a unique flavor that Ethier prefers for avocado toast, eggs and breakfast potatoes. The Black Label is made with habanero peppers and is not too spicy. It also lacks the fruity flavor that accompanies many habanero sauces. Ethier likes it on fish tacos. The Hots Mayo, which received an “S” in honor of what his 3-year-old daughter Stella calls gravy, he puts on sandwiches, burgers and roasted vegetables.
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All sauces are made with organic and simple ingredients and fully processed by Ethier in rented commercial kitchen spaces. He is a product designer and tester, chef, packaging line, accountant, marketing team and brand face.
Owning a small business is no easy task, but neither is being a chef, he said. The entrepreneur has big plans for his brand: he wants to make even more sauces and see them on grocery store shelves and dining tables across the country.
Ethier worked in restaurants before high school and said his new occupation allowed him to pursue what prompted him to cook in the first place.
“I had these great mentors showing me all of these things and all the passion that can go into food,” he said. “They were grown men who came to work excited and started creating every day. I was like, ‘Wow, what a cool life.’ Then I jumped with both feet. ”
Sweet Mama sauce can be purchased online at sweetmamasauce.com and at local farmers’ markets during the season. Each full-size bottle costs $ 10 and a travel size is $ 3.
Uniquely Local is a Mary Whitfill story series featuring South Shore farmers, bakers and manufacturers. Do you have a story idea? Contact Mary at [email protected]
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