A few months after we got married, my husband and I picked up some Chinese food to take back to our little bungalow. We ordered a couple dishes, excited to share and compare whose order was better and why. I ordered something spicy, and he closed his eyes and pointed to the menu (a choosing method that he still employs today). When we got back to our house, we scooped out the food onto rice, put on a movie and curled up on the couch. Our dinner was delicious. We ate until we were stuffed. We practically licked the take-out containers clean…except for the two red shriveled peppers in the bottom of my dish, there was nothing left. My husband saw the peppers and asked me if I dared him to eat them. I said no, so of course, he ate them anyway. He seemed to be ok for about 15 seconds, but then it was too much for him to handle. His face was red, he started sweating, and I watched him get more and more dramatic about the fire in his mouth. Gasping, he asked if we had anything to make the burning stop. I just rolled my eyes and went back to the movie. I heard him in the kitchen rustling around with the milk and a glass. I watched him drink glass after glass of milk. It would help for a few seconds and then come roaring back, and he would have to drink more. He moved on to yogurt next, and I looked over at him as he was eating straight out of the carton with a giant spoon. The yogurt worked for a bit, but then the fire would come back, and he had to try something else. I had to pause the movie to watch him literally slather his tongue in a heap of butter. It was more entertaining to watch him trying to deal with the heat then my movie, so I did just that. All throughout his attempts to quench the fire, he had to weigh the lesser of two evils. He was so full it hurt to eat, yet his mouth hurt so bad that he had to eat to cool it down. And I just sat and watched…and laughed. While my husband still will eat anything, I love to remind him of the misery from the *not* dared shriveled red peppers of that awesome dinner. He just loves spice! And a love of spice is a great thing, so it’s good to know that JD is creating sauces and spices based on his own love of heat and flavor. Check out the All Spice Café Gourmet Fiery Foods!
Please introduce yourself!
Hi, my name is JD Cowles, founder of All Spice Cafe Gourmet Fiery Foods. I grew up in upstate NY and currently reside in Venice, CA. The thoughts behind All Spice Cafe were based on the Buffalo style hot wings that I fell in love with in the late 70’s while attending college at SUNY Oswego. After leaving college I started making a hot sauce that was used on wings, on the bbq, pizza, mixed with salad dressing, eggs . . .
What do you make or do?
I was living in Rochester, NY, working for Kodak’s motion picture division and traveling the world teaching digital film compositing. Being such a lover of spicy foods, I would seek out the spiciest restaurants where ever work took me and would give bottles of sauce away to friends and have bbq’s where most of the food on the grill would have some of the sauce on it. In the late 90’s I moved to CA for work and continued to make the hot sauce and served it up to the digital artists at every post production company I worked with. Soon I started getting requests from people to start selling the sauce and in 2006 I had 3 sauces, Cayenne Habanero, Caribbean Spice and Chipotle Garlic. All three were entered in the Fiery Foods and Barbecue’s hot sauce competition, the Scovie Awards, where the Cayenne Habanero took 3rd place for Habanero sauces and the Caribbean Spice took 1st place for Caribbean style sauces.
Where can we find your creations?
There are currently 5 products that can be found in Whole Foods in the southern Pacific region, the Sprouts CA stores, fine gourmet shops in southern CA as well as quite a few restaurants in Venice and Santa Monica. We also have an online store where you can find all of our other products. Check out our website at www.allspicecafe.com.
Is there an interesting story behind the name of your business?
All Spice Cafe came from the desire to have a cafe one day where everything on the menu would be spice based, spice for flavor, not necessarily heat. The lack of funds and need for a day job has delayed the cafe but maybe one of these days the cafe can become a reality!
How long have you been creating and is it your full-time job?
I’ve been making hot sauces since 1980, never intending to sell them. After winning a couple of Scovie Awards in 2006 I decided it was time to start offering the sauces to some of the gourmet shops on LA’s west-side. I also attended the Fiery Foods Show in Albuquerque to talk to other hot sauce makers, wondering if the hot sauce business was their full time job (only about 10%) and to ask other questions about getting the business going. Working in the motion picture visual effects I do find inspiration in coming up with interesting graphics for the labels and by turning all the other artists onto the products. Being a big bbq guy helps as well as I’ve been known to cook bbq lunches for some of the visual effects crew during the last few weeks of the post production.
When you’re not making things, what do you do?
When I’m not making products for All Spice Cafe I spend a lot of time working in the kitchen or at the bbq coming up with some very delicious meals for family and friends.
Did someone in your family, a friend or teacher introduce you to your creative side or have they helped you along the way?
My mother is a wonderful cook. Growing up we always had amazing meals most every day of the week. As a kid, I always enjoyed helping out in the kitchen or creating delicious meals for myself. Back in those days the food was never spicy and it wasn’t until college that I had my first hot chicken wing! After that I couldn’t get enough spice.
Where do you find inspiration?
I find inspiration for cooking based on the amazing ethnic cuisine the world has to offer. Some of my favorite foods include Thai, Indian, Caribbean, Italian, Cajun, the list goes on and on. Many of the bbq and meals I prepare are influenced by these cuisines.
What’s on the horizon for you and what you do?
In order to have a successful product, distribution is key. Until there is enough distribution that I can take a salary from All Spice Cafe, a day job will be necessary as living in southern CA most of the time and maintaining a home in Rochester, NY, is very expensive. I’ve taken on a couple of partners in Chicago who have extensive experience in distribution and building a solid structure to create a successful business.
If money wasn’t an issue how would your life change with regards to your art?
If money wasn’t an issue I’d probably have a food cart somewhere in southern CA, turning people onto some of my favorite foods.
What would be your perfect day off?
It seems that I rarely have a day off because if I’m not doing things to support All Spice Cafe, I’m usually preparing something for the next meal. With the beautiful weather southern CA has to offer, a nice day off would include something around the bbq, a stroll along the beach with good friends and family.
What inspiring advice would you give to other creatives be they established or just starting out?
It’s a lot of work to come up with products or a new business because chances are you’re already working a full time job but if you keep with it and don’t try to grow too quickly some great things can happen. All Spice Cafe is a perfect example. Having been in business for the last 7 or 8 years, I would love to be doing this full time and making enough money to support my lifestyle. There are many days where it’s tough to keep going year after year and not throwing in the towel. If you truly love your business or products, the people you talk to about it will see how passionate about it you are and that gives you hope. One day you’ll talk to the right person who can offer advice or point you in the right direction. That happened to me a few months ago with the team in Chicago! I’m looking forward to great things to come for All Spice Cafe Gourmet Fiery Foods because it’s more about flavor than heat!