Where Do All Those Celebrity Hot Sauce Collaborations Come From?
Noah Chaimberg of Brooklyn hot sauce shop Heatonist explains the process
Internal polling about what a hot sauce produced by the rock band Korn would potentially be christened resulted in suggesions including “Got the Spice,” “Pique on a Leash” and “A.D.I.D.A.S. (All Day I Dream About Sauce).”
As the fellas in the Jonathan Davis-led Bakersfield band had already selected and announced the name of their forthcoming condiment before the question was posed in the offices of IH, the release of Korn’s “Here to Slay Hot Sauce,” in conjunction with Brooklyn hot sauce shop Heatonist, was not really a surprise.
What was a bit more of a mystery to us is how celebrity hot sauce collaborations, which are certainly hot right now, come about. To find out how a condiment like Korn’s “Here to Slay” sauce or UFC fighter Dustin Poirier’s Louisiana-style hot sauce line makes it from the think tank to the shelf, we caught up with Heatonist founder Noah Chaimberg to get him to shed some light on the way celebrity hot sauce collabs actually heat up.
In the case of Korn’s signature condiment, the idea to collaborate with Heatonist and Chaimberg was hatched from the band’s love of ordering massive amounts of takeout food from local restaurants while on tour and slathering their post-gig feasts with hot sauce. As the sides began talking, the concept of using ingredients that are common in the band’s California hometown was introduced, which resulted in the inclusion of jalapeño and serrano peppers as well as chipotles in adobo and cumin being added into the mix. Then, Chaimberg and his team put their spin on it.
“We looked at the food traditions in the Bakersfield area and the different ingredients that they grow and what people eat. Then we wanted to throw in a fun twist, so we put charred corn in. There’s never been a hot sauce made with corn before,” Chaimberg tells InsideHook. “It was also important to the lead singer [Davis] that we make it without added sugar because his son is a huge hot sauce fan, but also has diabetes. We like to create a sauce that is really unique and personal to the people we work with so they’re really happy to share it with their fans and use it themselves.”
During the development process, Davis and his bandmates used plenty of Here to Slay before it was a finished product. “We got together with Korn before one of their shows on their last tour and met them in the green room. We had a bunch of snacks out and the hot sauce,” Chaimberg says. “We tasted them and they gave comments. For the next round after we had worked on the recipe, we mailed all the guys updated samples at their homes when they were on break from touring. We got an artist to work on the label design and they came up with the name.”
According to Chaimberg, that level of involvement is mandatory for Heatonist to consider undertaking a collab.
“I’m not going to name anybody, but we’ve been approached by some of the biggest talents out there. It’s not a knock against them, but it seemed as if their teams and management were really just interested in having a piece of merch and weren’t really into hot sauce at all,” he says. “We passed because that’s not what we do. It has to be authentically awesome for us to want to get involved. We would never white-label anything or just take something that already exists and slap a new name on it so we say ‘No’ to a lot more partnerships than we say ‘Yes’ to. Creating something totally new that people are gonna love is the hard part and that’s what we’ve been really good at.”
As with the charred corn in Korn’s sauce, that creative process always results in Heatonist going where no saucemaker has gone before. “If you look at everything we’ve done, we always put a little flourish or some special signifier to show that this is not any other hot sauce. We do that intentionally as a flex to show there’s no chance it is white-labeled and so you know we’re not just pulling something off the shelf,” Chaimberg says. “There’s the corn in the Korn sauce. Apricots in the Los Calientes sauce. [Dustin] Poirier’s Creole maple has a Creole blend of spices in there that’s totally unique in the world of hot sauce. Maybe not everyone’s noticing those flexes, but the people who are into this stuff and are going to go down a rabbit hole reading about it care for sure.”
Now that we know, we do too.
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