Jacob Cutino and I first met on Wednesday, May 13 at the Uptown Phoenix Farmer’s Market. He was sampling and selling Homeboy’s Hot Sauce in jalapeno and habañero flavors.
I’m not afraid of jalapeno, but I fear the habañero pepper due to an unfortunate experience that involved slicing one without wearing gloves and then touching my hands to my lips. Youza! So I asked Jacob, as most people do, “is it hot?”
He explained that his sauces highlight the fresh flavor of the pepper as well as the heat, and the sauces are meant to complement your favorite dishes. He suggests pairing the habañero sauce with grilled meats & vegetables, with your favorite cocktail, and to spice up seafood; and pairing the jalapeno sauce with eggs, pasta, tacos, burritos, or to marinate chicken.
“ A little bit of this, a dash of that, a pinch of this”
Jacob grew up in Colorado Springs, and he’s been in the restaurant business since 1992 when he was 16 years old, where his first job was washing dishes at Sizzler. He worked his way through the ranks – line cook, kitchen manager, purchasing manager, front of the house manager, sous chef, chef – learning the restaurant business from every angle along the way. Nine years ago Jacob moved to Phoenix and he has worked as a chef at establishments such as Gallo Blanco, Bootleggers, and True Food.
Homeboy’s Hot Sauce is Jacob’s version of a sauce that his Trinidadian stepfather used to make. The original recipe was more like a non-recipe – “a little bit of this, a dash of that, a pinch of this” – no quantities just of list of ingredients that when put together created magic.
It took Jacob two years to develop the recipes. When he made test batches he would bring samples to work and they would disappear. Jacob admits there were times he tried to talk himself out of launching his product line, thinking that the “market was saturated” and “it’s a tough road” – negative thoughts getting in the way. But then co-workers started asking for more sauce to share with friends and he decided it was time to move forward.
The company is definitely a family affair. Jacob and his best friend manufacture the product, wife Natalie handles the office, shipping, and social media, and sister-in-law Cayla Snooke designed the logo and packaging. Jacob was motivated to launch his business “before I turn 40” – he celebrated his 39th birthday on May 21 this year. He is now working full time marketing Homeboy’s Hot Sauce, and he has hit the ground running.
The chef network in Phoenix has been very supportive of Jacob and Homeboy’s Hot Sauce, as indicated by the people and places that use and sell the product. Right now that list includes Pane Bianco, Bodega at FnB, LGO, Citizen Public House, The Gladly, Yardbird + Larder, Top of the Rock, and the list is growing.
Jacob is currently working on new recipes that include a ghost pepper sauce, a honey habañero sauce, and a southern hot sauce with a smoky red pepper flair. He hopes to add these new flavors to the market later this summer.
Ultimately Jacob would like Homeboy’s to be the hot sauce that Phoenix is known for, he wants to drive his customers to local businesses, and he’s already strategizing how he can give back to the community. He’s wants to create a win-win situation for everyone.
By the way, I tasted the sauces at the farmer’s market that day I met Jacob, and I couldn’t get my money out fast enough. I think I’m hooked!
By Ellen Straine