Before she made her own, Wendy Bridgeman
could not have a lot of the hot sauces available in the market without getting stomach pains! Once she found out she could eat her homemade ones, her passion grew. Since 1997, she and husband Paul
have been making hot sauces with the extra peppers from their home without any preservatives or chemical additives. When asked about why the couple decided to get into the hot sauce business, Wendy replies, "You only live once!" Check out our interview with our local Orange County artisan, Wendy Bridgeman of Chone Hot Sauce
What's the origin of the word "Chone" and what does it mean?
W: "Chone" is short for "chonus"; "chonus" is a contraction of "choice" and "bonus". When it comes to food, "choice" is something of high quality and "bonus" is something spectacular that is added. It was a common slang that my husband's fraternity used back in college to describe things that were amazing and awesome.
How did you and Paul start making hot sauce?
Paul and I grew up in the San Gabriel Valley up in Arcadia and went to the same high school. We had a lot of mutual friends who were dating, and before we knew it, we started going out too! We got married and bought our first home in Laguna Niguel. Our yard had a lot of extra space and we both enjoyed gardening, so we grew a variety of vegetables like tomatoes and hot peppers. With a bunch of peppers lying around, we decided to get creative and make hot sauce out of them.
How did your hobby grow into a small business?
W: Family and friends would come over to try our special sauce and we would give it away in whatever bottle we could find, like sterilized baby food bottles and salad dressing bottles. Everyone pushed us to give our creation a name and I said, "Whatever it is, it has to be chone!" Whatever the name was, it had to be great. The word "chone" just happen to fit perfectly! Soon our friends wanted to gift them to their friends too and it just evolved into a small business. And now we've been making it with the same recipe for almost 20 years! It wasn't until last year when we started selling our products at local farmer's markets around Orange County.
How is your product handcrafted?
Since demands have grown since our earlier days, we decided to move production from our home kitchen to a commercial kitchen in 2011. Despite our growth, we are still persistent about making our hot sauce in small batches. Every step of the process, from washing to cooking, is done by hand. Eventually, we couldn't grow enough peppers to keep up with our business so we try to source them locally whenever posssible.
Can you tell me more about your hot sauces and Chone shake?
W: Our hot sauces are made with a combination of 4 varieties of chili peppers, onion and garlic. All fresh ingredients, no fillers, and no added water, sugar or preservatives! Chone Red is a smoky, spicy habanero and chipotle red sauce, while Chone Green is a tangy, hot habanero green sauce. Our Chone Pepper Shake is not your ordinary crushed red pepper! They're our special, intensely flavored, ground hot habanero chipotle blend.
What kinds of food do you like to use your hot sauce in?
We like to use it on our bagels and cream cheese. We put it on our eggs and tuna sandwiches and we even make chili spaghetti sauce and spinach dips with them. One of our customers at farmer's market bought our Chone Shake
and sprinkled it onto her glass of Bloody Mary.
What does the word "artisanal" mean to you?
Artisanal to me means our hands are in every aspect of it -- our labor, our love, our creativity. We're not contracting the work out to anybody else. Besides making the sauce, we also get our hands in bottling, sealing, labeling and selling each product.
What has been your proudest or most memorable moment since starting your business?
Everyday is a proud moment, but it's been most exciting to see the whole family involved in the business, including our kids. Our kids have very science-oriented minds so they are naturally very curious. We garden together as a family and they've been getting more aware about where their food comes from, which is what this whole artisanal food movement is about.