You’ve probably heard, we’re hitting the road this summer with two landies on a mission to conquer all adventures that Britain has to offer. This got us thinking: what is our can’t-live-without travel essential – aside from a suitcase full of JW goodies of course. Unsurprisingly we landed on something food-based. Let’s face it, weeks spent cooking on a camp stove doesn’t lend itself to culinary excellence. We needed something that makes everything taste delicious. And hot sauce rose to the top of the list. So naturally, we teamed up with the boys who do hot sauce best, The Bonnie Sauce co..
Rustling up a scorching Scot-Mex storm on Edinburgh’s food scene, Stephen and Nick cut their teeth by travelling around in their food truck before opening their first restaurant, all the while honing their delicious hot sauce recipes. Trying to source most of their ingredients from Britain – each of their four sauces are hand-made, packed with flavour and endlessly versatile.
On a scale of ‘master of mild’ to ‘full-on firecracker’, where do you sit? Choose from Jalapeño & Lime, Mango & Habanero, Smokey Chipotle and Fiery Scotch Bonnet. We’ve got Scot-fusion recipes (spoiler alert: they involve haggis and Iron Brew) coming your way over the next couple of weeks on The Handbook, so stay tuned.
Follow us on our Hit the Road Jack journey where we’ll be handing out our exclusive Jack Wills x Bonnie Sauce bottles as we go. Plus stay tuned to Instagram @jackwills and comment under one of our hot sauce images to win an epic adventure in a Jack Wills landie!
We caught up with Stephen and Nick, the founders of the Bonnie Sauce Co. to find out more…
JW: Tell us about your early days.
TBSC: It started with us running some Mexican street food restaurants in Edinburgh. The sauces were developed for the restaurants and basically, they just got so popular that customers kept asking ‘when are we able to buy these things?’ Eventually so many people started asking that we just thought we should probably start bottling these things up and selling them.
JW: How did you come about sourcing your ingredients back then?
TBSC: It was trial at the start trying to find everything from the right place – you won’t believe how hard it is to source Scotch bonnet chillis in Scotland, it is ridiculously difficult. We tried going around to different delis, specialist food stores, even supermarkets, and eventually we found one Sainsbury’s in Edinburgh which were selling Scotch bonnet chillis. We had to drive halfway across the city to go to this one Sainsbury’s to be able to make the sauce. Now we’re bigger we can contact different suppliers, but we were making very small batches at the start.
JW: From making small batches to bottling your own stuff, how long was the journey?
TBSC: We’ve been making sauces in the Bonnie Burrito restaurants and food trucks since March 2015. From then it’s been a bit of a journey until about October 2017; it’s taken more than two years of getting things wrong and it being too spicy, to getting a finished product with the right design. So about two and a half years to get things nicely bottled and produced down south in a factory.
JW: Down south meaning England?
TBSC: It is, yeah, we wanted to keep it British where possible, so we went for a factory down in Hawkshead, which was recommended to us from a few contacts that we had. The person who runs the factory is a lovely guy called Mark and he had all the certificates from when he produces his own things – he was able to give us a good price because he buys in bulk. His stuff is fairly similar to ours– he does spicy jams and relishes – he was able to get chillies in and he just ticks all the boxes.
JW: Are you still running the restaurants or is this a full-time sauce-making situation?
TBSC: It becomes a real juggling act sometimes. There’s 70, 80, occasionally 90 hours a week where you’ve got to juggle everything, you’ve got a sauce market at the weekend, you’ve got things going on at the restaurant, and different festivals with the food truck at the weekend – it’s pretty full on. We try and balance it, but we’re still actively involved in everything.
JW: So you’re well on the way to building a Bonnie empire ?
TBSC: We’ve got two brands now and it’s a lot of hours and effort – at the moment there isn’t an empire yet, but we want to keep pushing the sauces as well as the restaurants. We want a few more restaurants and to get the sauces completely covering the UK. After that we might venture out into Europe, but right now we’re thinking of expansion over Scotland with the restaurants, so yes an exciting future ahead!