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Bud Selmi's Sizzlin Sauces sizzle again

Locally grown hot peppers give Selmi's sauces their heat

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November 12, 2009
his is big for peppers grown in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. You see, the hot pepper competitions are held in places like California, New Mexico and Texas.

"The Hot Pepper Awards are a hot bed of hot sauces. It would be like someone from Texas or New Mexico winning a New Hampshire maple syrup contest," says Selmi.

So how does a local Conway man end up competing in hot pepper challenges and winning them? In 1995 Selmi became a trained sous chef through the American Culinary Federation. He is active in the White Mountain chapter, has held various positions in the chapter and has worked with the American Culinary Federation's New Hampshire Chapter's Junior program. Selmi was the executive chef at the Eagle Mountain House and is now holds the executive chef's position at Story Land. He says that he has learned a lot by working with different chefs and this helps him to develop his recipes.

His dad was an inspiration, too. "My dad, Chuck Selmi, was an artist and when people would ask him how long it took him to paint a painting, he'd answer, '20 years.' It has taken me 20 to 25 years to get where I am today," says Selmi.

Green thumb for hot peppers

There is another ingredient added to his success. Selmi has a knack for growing hot peppers. He also loves peppers and hot spicy foods. "I have always loved hot peppers," he says with a grin.

Growing peppers began as a hobby for Selmi, but back in 2002 he had such a copious crop that he had to figure out what to do with all the peppers.

"I had a bumper crop — 170 plants in the greenhouse — so I made a whole bunch of sauce," he says. Selmi began by preparing the sauce in mason jars and giving it away to his friends. "My friends said, 'Wow this is good! You should bottle and sell this,'" he related. And he did.

Selmi's sauces have a local and national following. Locally, Sizzlin Sauces can be found at Zeb's General Store, Margarita Grill, the Red Jacket Mountain View Resort and the Chef's Market. In March of 2004, Selmi took his business worldwide and launched his website: SizzlinSauces.com. The website helps to bring in orders from near and far. Selmi notes that, "When we went live, I thought orders would come pouring in — they didn't at first; it takes awhile."

To further promote his product, Selmi also lists his sauces on the largest pepper website: Peppers.com. Sizzlin Sauces can also be followed on Twitter and Facebook.

"We do regular tweets to draw people in and engage them. We have just started, so it [social networking] hasn't impacted sales yet; it takes awhile to build," says Selmi.

Selmi, with the help of a Connecticut marketing firm, has launched his own blog: http://chefbudsblog.wordpress.com/

Business has been good

Selmi says last December sales were strong, and though he didn't see any sales in either January or February, March sales went right through the roof. He did particularly well at the Made in New Hampshire Expo that took place last March.

"It was the busiest Saturday night at the expo ever. We brought 20 cases of Razing Cane Garlic Relish and we sold out, we had none for Sunday. I was stunned when I left," says Selmi.

Selmi tells what makes a good hot sauce by explaining that a good hot sauce is not just the temperature of the heat, but also the texture, appearance and flavor. "Anyone can make a hot sauce," he says. "The hard part is adding the flavor." Selmi adds flavors like carrot juice, honey, craggily plums, prickly pears, and passion fruits to his wide variety of habanero peppers.

Though business has been good, there are challenges to the hot sauce business and lots of hard work, too. Bottling the sauces is no easy task though. "People don't realize it takes about $1500 to bring a new product to market," he says.

Selmi has plans for future sauces and relishes. "I have at least a half dozen sauces in my head, but figure it would take almost $10,000 to bring them to market," he adds.

For now, Selmi is concentrating on the 18 hot sauces, nine barbeque sauces/rubs and three mustards/relishes that he makes. He does have another relish in the works and figures it will be out in four to six months.

Selmi says his production is accomplished by a staff of three: "Me, myself and I."

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