We formed Hot Pepper Dudes, LLC as a company in 2010 but the ideas and experimentation started more than a decade earlier. I (Chris Billet) have been experimenting with growing hot peppers, making hot sauces, and other methodes of preserving peppers since 1999. It really started as a hobby since I couldn't find anything other than jalpenos and habaneros in the grocery stores or farmer's markets. I stumbled across a place online (pepperjoe.com
) that carries tons of different organic hot pepper seeds, so I decided to start growing my own. I've been so pleased with the quality of the seeds that I still order from Pepper Joe today.
I had never really gardened a whole lot, so as you may imagine it took some trial and error to get the results that I wanted out of growing the hot peppers. Experimentation and research provided enough help that I was soon growing 10 - 12 different plants per season and getting a good amount of peppers from each plant. Once you get the hang of it, it's really quite simple. Also, I've found that growing them in containers is actually easier (no weeds to pull) and produces good results.
So now I'm growing hot peppers...and I end up with a ton of them, more than I can possibly eat before they would go bad. Not wanting my prize crop to go to waste, I learned how to pickle and "can" them in mason jars. Also, this is where I started making my own hot sauce. I found a very basic recipe and then started experimenting from there. Every year I kept trying out new concoctions for hot sauces and I still enjoy doing that today.
In 2008, my day job resulted in a relocation to Tampa, FL. This was also the first year that I was able to get Ghost Pepper (aka Bhut Jolokia) seeds. I had been reading quite a bit about them as they are a native pepper to India and were said to be the hottest pepper in the world at the time, coming in somewhere around 1,000,000 Scoville units (about 400 times hotter than Tabasco sauce). Well, of course I had to make a hot sauce with these peppers and after a few different variations I hit on a combination that everyone absolutely loved.
Around this time I had also met Jeff Toothman who shared a similar love for all things spicy and cooking in general. We decided to team up and start the company and get our first two sauces bottled for commercial sale. It's been a blast so far. The third hot pepper dude is a long time friend from Pennsylvania, John French. He enjoyed the sauces so much that he's now running the Northeast branch of the business.