Up and Coming Local “Fave Hot Sauce” Looking to Bring the Heat
Hot sauce aficionados may want to look out for one of the newest names in the community. Fave Hot Sauce is the realization of a Tuscaloosa man's lifelong goals.
Dantrel Robinson is quickly turning his passion for hot sauce into a profitable side gig. Originally from Gary, Indiana, Robinson had two passions growing up: marketing and food.
He's bounced all over in his career, starting work at Coca-Cola before jumping into radio work. In 2006, he ran a podcast that featured Grammy-nominated artists, which eventually earned the attention of the producers of the award show itself. Robinson wrote for the Grammy's and ran their social media accounts for a time. He's still qualified to be a voting member for the show.
Currently, he works at Tuscaloosa's AlabamaOne Credit Union as their marketing manager.
"I've always been a big fan of creating, no matter what that," Robinson said.
Robinson said back in Indiana, he loved spending time in his father's garden. It was a staple of his childhood: the taste of fresh tomatoes in the heat of summer. Robinson's parents retired and moved to Birmingham, Alabama in 2004.
During the onset of COVID-19 pandemic, Robinson's father passed away from an unrelated cause in March 2020. This hit Robinson especially hard, considering he had just moved to Tuscaloosa and had just started a family of his own.
"It was a lot of change all at once," he said. "I had this new house and a new family, and I wanted to honor my dad somehow. That's when I thought to start my own garden."
With a taste for spicier flavors, Robinson began growing peppers in preparation to make his own hot sauce. He jumped right in the deep end by planting Carolina Reapers, one of the hottest crossbred peppers in the world. Sometime later, he had enough homegrown peppers to start experimenting with hot sauces.
In the end, he created nearly 30 different formulas, landing on three that he really liked. He used his background in graphic design to create labels for 100 bottles and began selling to friends, family and colleagues.
The brand name came naturally to Robinson. "Fave" is a childhood nickname, and it's been his personal Twitter handle since 2007. He explained it was easier for people to recognize his hot sauce that way.
Right now, Fave Hot Sauce consists of three distinct flavors for different palettes. "Unity" consists of seven different peppers and gives off a strong heat. The combination of peppers gives the sauce a red color that matches the logo. Next the "Extremist" incorporates what Robinson called an "exquisite" blend of habanero and California Reaper peppers for hotheads who like a challenge. Lastly is the "Verde," a mild green sauce that focuses more on taste than heat.
He explained that his good friend, former mayoral candidate and National Championship winner Martin Houston, suggested he add the milder sauce because he couldn't take the heat.
Robinson now takes the pulp from the verde sauce, dries it out and grinds it into a powder packet that still retains its heat. It comes complimentary with some bottle purchases and can be used on vegetables, ramen noodles, popcorn or anything else people want to spice up.
His next step was to start selling online, which he said helped him stray away from hand-to-hand contact during the summer of 2020. Robinson's goal with growing his brand was to make his hot sauce known for its flavor rather than its heat.
"I talked with peers and hot sauce enthusiasts about that," he said. "I wanted to create a community that's different from the 'oh it's so hot, oh it's so painful' mentality. The heat is gonna take care of itself."
Soon enough, his hot sauce was being circulated among enthusiasts in Tuscaloosa. He made the decision that once he sold 400 bottles, he'd create his website. He passed that goal much quicker than he expected.
Last month's Celebrate Local event was his first chance to showcase his product in-person, and the stock he brought sold out. Robinson's passion for his new business extends past his online store: he also decided to relaunch his podcast, titled "Lost in the Sauce," where he reviews other hot sauces.
"I love to learn about other brands and their stories," he said. "I want to foster a real community."
Robinson is quickly scaling up his business. He said now he is looking to partner with local restaurants that share his entrepreneurial vision. He's in talks with Jalapeños and Mark's Mart in Northport, but hopes to find more partners.
"My goal is not to be in every grocery store in the country. I still want to build a strong community," he said. "I want to grow online as well. I want to celebrate others, and try to be personable, taking all the experience from the places I've been and applying it to making the best product I can."