You know the salsa your friend makes from scratch? The one that makes you test the structural integrity of the tortilla chip and can even draw attention away from the guacamole? That's how we felt the first time we dipped into Zukali.
Salsa savant Cesar Sanchez started out making roasted pepper salsas for friends at cookouts in McKinney, Texas, and we can't get enough. Here, he spills the beans on how he got started and how he makes his famous salsas:
Tell us about food and your childhood?
My love for cooking and food really didn't develop until I was in my mid-20s, around the time I got married. Part of it was because I got exposed to great food while I was working at design studios here near Dallas. Vendors would take us out to nice restaurants for lunch or dinner, so I got to try a lot of great places.
How did you get into making your salsas and deciding to go into business?
Just by making them at home. I started with simple salsas and then got into more complex ones. I was basically just experimenting. I would always roast jalapeños on the grill and add lime juice and salt, as is very typical in Mexico. Then a close friend of mine brought me a jar of serranos in soy sauce from Mexico. I loved the flavor, but they were a bit salty and too spicy for me. I thought I could improve them, so I would roast jalapeños instead of serranos, and serve them with lime juice and soy sauce. Friends and family enjoyed them so much that I thought why not try to sell them. I create brands for a living so it was perfect in that it combined both my passion for food and for design.
How is your salsa made?
Well, I decided early on that without experience in the food industry, it was a dangerous proposition to invest in my own facility, so I found a local co-packer to help us. Our peppers come from Monterrey, Mexico. We usually do work in very small batches, maybe 50 cases at a time, here in Plano, Texas.
Many! One big one is simply not having enough time to manage my two businesses because I also own a design studio, which is basically our breadwinner. My time at Zukali is limited. Funding can be stressful, too. It's really a one-man company, with the occasional exception of help from my wife and daughters.
What is your favorite part of owning a business like this?
I love coming up with new unique salsa recipes and I have really loved building a brand from the ground up.
Pro tip: Zukali’s fresh, flavorful salsas (Aji Pepper and Cilantro Pineapple) are great on roast pork tacos, stirred into black bean soup, on top of hot dogs or eaten straight-up on tortilla chips or Kettle-Cooked Spicy Pork Skins.
Can we just say hellooooo, Super Bowl Sunday?