This Maine Hot Sauce Practically Sings

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Evan Smith ‘fesses up to knowing two things very well – rock and roll music and hot sauce. Based out of Portland, Maine, he splits his time gigging as a professional musician and running his own small-batch hot sauce company, Evan’s Rockin’ Hot Sauce. His road-tested concoction is made with no additives. The recipe relies on natural ingredients like bananas for sweetness and fresno chiles for heat. He calls his creation an “everyday” hot sauce, “something that’s balanced enough so that whatever you’re cooking or eating is taking center stage. No gimmicky heat or vinegary bite, rather it’s a complementary kick to your dish.”

Photo by Shane Timm

So how does one go from playing saxophone to making a condiment? “I grew up in Texas and I think early on I really started to appreciate spicy [food],” said Smith. His first calling though was music, and the years of struggling to make it brought him to Montreal, New York, Texas and eventually Maine, working in food-related jobs along the way to pay the bills. “When I got to the point where I was able to make a living as a musician, then I was able to think more creatively about food in my off-time,” he said.

Around 2014, he got serious about his sauce craft and started making and gifting his creations to bandmates who became the official taste testers as he continued to tinker and tour.

Photo Courtesy of Evan’s Rockin’ Hot Sauce

It was while on tour with the band Bleachers that lead singer Jack Antonoff convinced him to sell his hot sauce on the merchandise tables. The hand-labeled bottles sold out time and time again, and when 2017 and the 27th iteration of the recipe rolled around, Evan was ready to launch the brand. He built a website and found Fork Food Lab to produce his product, where he’s still cranking it out today. The majority of sales are direct-to-consumer through his site, but he has expanded to local spots in the Portland area like Terlingua.

While Covid has prevented him from touring, Evan has stayed active in the recording studio, even landing on Taylor Swift’s newest release, “Evermore.” His hot sauce production is still a solo gig, but business growth could change that. As Maine begins to open back up, he feels a sense of pride in being part of a local economy ready to come back to life. “If I can bring a little bit of light to the state of Maine, just be more a part of the food community where we live, and then bring that to the rest of the states,” he muses. His site ships nationally. His next hot sauce tour might not be far behind.

AUTHOR

AnnMarie Mattila

AnnMarie Mattila is a food writer, recipe developer and pastry chef based in New York. She has a master's degree from New York University in Food Studies and sometimes eats cake for dinner. Follow her at www.annmariemattila.com.

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