Kendell Brenner recently woke up his son Jordan and frantically put a spoon in his face, telling Jordan to taste a spoonful of hot sauce before the eight-year-old could barely open his eyes.
“I was like, ‘Jeez, dad, let me at least wake up first,’” Jordan Brenner said.
The Brenners don’t have some sort of family ritual using hot sauce to clear illness or anything else like that, though. Kendell Brenner just wanted to know if his son thought the hot sauce needed anything added to it, and that’s because he is the sole chef for his son’s budding hot sauce company, Jordan’s Hot-cha WAA-cha Sauces.
“We kind of live hot sauce around here right now,” Kendell Brenner said.
It started three years ago when Kendell Brenner and his son noticed a lot of different kinds of peppers growing in their garden. The then-five-year-old told his dad they should use them to make hot sauces.
“It hadn’t even occurred to me,” Kendell Brenner said. “I like to think that if Jordan didn’t suggest it, eventually it would’ve come to me, but who knows?”
Kendell Brenner, a chef himself, is a culinary instructor at BOCES and founded Chefs2Be, a Nyack culinary camp for kids ages 11-16. He liked Jordan’s suggestion, and the two started working on ideas for the company. After three years, Kendell Brenner thinks they’re just about four weeks out from finally selling the sauces.
“My dad is the chef, but I am the brains and the personality behind the operation,” Jordan Brenner said. “My dad is making the sauces right now for the ingredients, to know what we need more of and what we need less of.”
Kendell Brenner said it takes a while to get the recipe just right.
“Part of it is because I’m a chef, I just want to play around and experiment,” Kendell Brenner said. “When we’re coming up with the recipe, I might think of something different to do and want to try it, and then that can lead me to doing something else differently.”
That sets them back because the New City residents want to make the sauce exactly the same at least seven times before they send out to New York State, where it's tested for things like pH activity and water balance. Brenner added that is required before they can package and sell the sauce.
Jordan helps his dad out preparing the sauces, but will get to help out even more once they have the recipe all set. Once the recipe is finalized, Jordan can help measure out how much everything they need. It’s actually some after-school learning for Jordan, who is working his way through grams and ounces in his second grade class at Strawtown Elementary School. Plus, working with peppers can be a little dangerous for an eight-year-old.
“We’ve had many a burning hand or tearing eye already,” Kendell Brenner said.
He expects the testing to be done soon for the company’s first three sauces: Maple Mango Habanero, Strawberry Habanero and Garlic Lime Habanero.
The maple mango starts out sweet but then gets hot, the strawberry goes from sweet to mild to a little hot and the garlic lime is their hottest sauce so far, so hot that even a tiny drop can leave some heat in your mouth for a little bit after eating it. They’re also currently working on a barbecue sauce, which will be more sweet than hot, but that one isn’t ready to be sent out for testing yet.
Kendell Brenner said they plan on selling the sauces at local farmers markets over the summer and online at JordansSauce.com once they’re ready to go on sale. The two have also started a Kickstarter page, which is a website that helps people fund projects through donations that are only accepted if the project is fully funded.
The Brenners started the page two weeks ago looking for $3,500 to help offset some of the costs. With two weeks to go, they’ve already raised more than $3,000. For the different donation levels, people receive various gifts as well, starting with two bottles of hot sauce autographed by Jordan and going up to a one-year subscription to every new sauce they develop and an exclusive invite to their launch party over the summer.
Kendell said they’re also thinking about looking for a storefront to sell gourmet sauces in, but that wouldn’t be until a little down the line. He also added they’re looking into making their sauces kosher, but he’s not sure if they will yet.
While it’s Kendell and Jordan Brenner making the sauces, the entire family is involved. Jordan’s mother designed the labels for the bottles, which have Jordan’s face and pictures of peppers on them. Jordan also started experimenting around the kitchen with his younger sister, when they created a dish he calls “eggs with cinnamon and nutmeg,” a dish that features, well, eggs with cinnamon and nutmeg.
“My sister still eats it,” he said. “I’m not a very big fan of it anymore.”
Jordan added that he eats the hot sauce with a variety of dishes, from pasta to chicken to sandwiches. He said he has one friend who likes to try the sauces, but he hasn’t had as much luck bringing it into school. One time when he did, a classmate who tried it got up and ran over the water fountain immediately after tasting some because it was too hot.
“That’s when we got a note from the teacher saying, ‘Please don’t send Jordan to school with bottles of hot sauce,’” Kendell Brenner said.
He added that they are excited for people to start tasting the sauces, which they plan on bringing to a big family reunion over the summer. He’s also excited for his son to run the company.
“I want him to be able to look back and think about owning his first business when he was just eight,” Kendell Brenner said. “Not only is it going to help him learn grams and ounces, but he’s going to learn how to run a business, he’s going to learn about making a product and marketing. I think it’s going to be a great experience for him.”