Building Flavors from the "Ground-Up"
In a world of gaudy hot sauces that tout nothing more than extreme spicy heat, Atlanta-based Ground-Up Flavor Company dares to stand out.
Founder Maurice Tyms not only focuses on the ingredients - the chiles, herbs and spices - but respects them, and how they can balance each other harmoniously. It's in this manner that each and every small-batch hot sauce imparts complex flavors that are built from the "ground up" from simple ingredients, and is pleasing to the palate while enhancing any dish it's paired with. A testament to high quality, Ground-Up Flavor Company’s Lovestuff Five Pepper Sauce went through at least 27 iterations before becoming a final product; a compelling and elegant mixture of green chiles, exotic spices, ginger, garlic, juniper berries and sea salt.
We got a chance to sit down with Maurice Tyms to get a glimpse of what goes into creating the highest quality hot sauce:
1) What inspired you to start Ground-Up Flavor Company and jump into the hot sauce business?
I noticed people close to me were using different kinds of hot sauces for everything that they ate, like Tabasco for this or Sriracha for that and Cholula for another thing. I thought, Why can't we encompass all of that? Why can't we have one sauce that will pair well with anything?
I love cooking, and I happened to be in my French technique phase at the time and making a lot of sauces. So I just started making pepper sauces on my own. I started playing around with chiles and began discovering a whole world of peppers that were so varied in color, size, flavor, spice and weight, it's amazing.
Some hot sauce brands are only about the heat. They want their sauces to be hotter and hotter, and their branding is just flames and skulls. It made me angry, and that’s what inspired me. I thought: we can do better. I don't mean us as a company, but as an industry. I decided to make a recipe that changes the way people view and talk about hot sauce. We thought about our packaging and being different in that way. We want to look elegant, and sleek, like we take ourselves seriously.
2) What makes your hot sauce special? Is there a secret ingredient?
It's versatile, it's tasty, and it's got character. My focus from the beginning was to make a flavorful pepper sauce that was not red, that was classy and elegant, and that was versatile—meaning it could pair well with any food. It took me 27 recipes to get to that. We used different maturation techniques, different salts, vinegars and herbs until we got it right. We also crush our chiles fresh before cooking, to make sure they bottle with that brightness. That's what makes Lovestuff special. It's the sauce that I set out to make.
As for the ingredients, we focused on green chiles for our flagship, which makes for a vibrant green sauce rather than the usual red. In that way, Lovestuff stands out and represents other chilies; after all, most chiles aren't even red! I want people to think about the actual chipotle, or the ancho, or the habanero in their hot sauce as well as the salts and herbs and acidifiers and how they come together to form a cohesive flavor unit. The ingredients make all the difference. There are more ingredients that go into that the bottle than just "hot."
I want the conversation about hot sauce to change a little bit, so I wanted to offer something that makes you ask questions, like "What kind of chiles do you use?", "What kind of maceration techniques do you use?"—and hopefully away from that one question that everyone asks, which is "Is this hot?"
3) Some of your hot sauce offerings change with the season. What inspires you when creating a new batch?
There's no one thing, really. I cook a lot already, and it's the same ideology: I have these ingredients, let's put them together. I want to make something really tasty and unique—that's it. If there's a chile I haven't worked with before, I'll try it out and see what I can pair it with—a salt or a vinegar or an oil—and just see what
happens. When it's really, really, really tasty, we'll try to reproduce it. It's like rochambeaux but with chiles and spices. It's fun.
4) Lovestuff Five Pepper Sauce is your flagship sauce. What is your favorite way to use it?
I like making bearnaise sauce with it. The first time I made it, I just couldn't believe how delicious it was. I did it again, just to make sure I wasn't crazy, and it was still delicious. I then shared it with some friends and neighbors and they enjoyed it as well. I also do a Lovestuff vinaigrette with white vinegar, fish sauce, olive oil, a little black pepper, and our sauce. It's amazing and so simple.