Hot sauce creator, David Tran, began his chili making mastery in 1975 in Vietnam. During his humble beginnings, the unsurpassable genius produced his first hot sauce called Pepper Sa-te. He filled his Sa-te sauce in recycled glass baby food jars that then was sold and delivered by family members via bicycle. In 1979, his astounding voyage began by departing communist Vietnam on a Taiwanese freighter that was registered in Panama, named Huey Fong. Later that name became the inspiration namesake of his beloved company, Huy Fong Foods. After the United States accepted Tran as a refugee when no other countries would, he started right away doing what he did best — making hot sauce. So in 1980, he started his chili legacy in a 5,000 sq foot building nestled near Chinatown in Los Angeles. His creations included his Pepper Sa-te Sauce, Sambal Oelek, Chili Garlic, Sambal Badjak and Sriracha Hot Sauce. He was quite content just to sell whatever he could produce each day and deliver them to Asian restaurants and markets in his blue Chevy van – often driving as far as San Francisco and even San Diego. Believe it or not, Tran actually hand painted his first hot sauce logos onto that blue Chevy van himself! At that time, little did Tran realize his delectable sauces, particularly the iconic Sriracha Hot Sauce, made from just fresh jalapeño chili peppers, would spread like HOT wild fire…
“We started this because we like fresh, spicy chili sauce.” -David Tran
Unable to distinguish the hot wild fire, after seven years of unexpected success in Chinatown, Huy Fong outgrew its first facility. Taking a chance by moving 20 minutes outside of the Chinese community, Tran risked it all by purchasing a 68,000 sq. ft. former pharmaceutical facility in Rosemead, California. There he continued to thrive by designing custom machinery to increase his production capacity to meet the continuing demand of his sauces. Sriracha during this time had taken off like a hot unstoppable chili pepper missile. Tran saw the horizon and it was indeed bright and optimistic. In 1996, Huy Fong was one again faced with space limitations, but as luck would have it, Tran was able to purchase the old Whamo facility just two doors down from the Rosemead facility. In a place where hula hoops and Frisbees once ruled, Huy Fong transformed that 170,000 sq. ft. building to a chili-grinding, hot sauce storing powerhouse, where all you can see was isles and isles of 55 gallon blue drums filled with freshly ground red chili peppers. At last, Tran had enough room to house his chili empire… so he thought.
“Make a rich man’s sauce at a poor man’s price.” – David Tran
Unbelievably, sales, especially Sriracha sales, had continued to soar like a rooster on steroids – almost seemingly out of control. ‘Quite amazing’, Tran recalls, given the fact that the Huy Fong Sriracha had been affectionately named by employees as the ‘secret’ sauce. Why? No one had ever been invited to see Huy Fong’s productions or operations in Rosemead. It was quoted by someone that it was easier to get into the Pentagon than into Huy Fong. And also, to this day, the company still can boast that it has never advertised its products, nor does it employ one single salesperson – the existence of the secret sauce is only spread by word of mouth — the ‘secret’ sauce sells itself…
In 2009, Tran, reading his Sriracha future like a fortune teller, saw demands continuing to increase while warehouse space continued to decrease. His Sriracha had gained popularity throughout the United States, Canada, Mexico and over ten different countries — Huy Fong was becoming well -known worldwide for its hot chili sauces! Tran forecasted that within a few years, he would have depleted all his available warehouse space, thus forcing him to either plateau in sales or to embark in search for yet another facility.
Tran had the good luck of finding a large parcel of real estate in Irwindale, where the City seemed eager to make it the home of the beloved Sriracha hot sauce. Although ground breaking began in 2010 on its 650,000 sq. ft., state-of-the-art facility it wasn’t up to full operations until a few years later. This would be Huy Fong’s headquarters, which would double the combined square footage of both Rosemead facilities. Tran worked tirelessly in designing this facility, along with the multitudes of automated machinery, so his dream could become reality. And now that it has, he smiles in reflecting upon the tens of thousands of visitors that had poured into his facility during the chili season open houses and tours. He relishes the thoughts of the recent awards he has received and reflects on the many interviews he has recently done, but his thoughts go back to his increasing Sriracha friends and their insatiable need for more and more Sriracha.
DEFINITELY NOT THE END…
“I couldn’t have succeeded without my hard-working employees working as a team to make the company what it has become.” – David Tran
David is picky about his peppers. Not only are they grown in the U.S.A., but they all come from one farm- Underwood Ranches located in Ventura County, California. Owned by Craig Underwood, this is the largest red pepper farm in the country, growing over 100 million pounds of peppers per year on 1,750 acres. Although this may sound like enough peppers to last through the next ice age, the supply must increase every year to meet the increasing demand for Huy Fong Foods sauces.
Every day over the 10-week harvest season, 30 semi loads of fresh peppers arrive at the factory doorstep within 2 hours of being picked, hot and ready to be processed in less than 24 hours. It’s a big job, but Craig only sells his peppers to David and David only buys his peppers from Craig. This unusual farmer- manufacturer relationship allows Huy Fong Foods to offer premium quality products made from peppers grown, picked and processed exclusively in California.
Originally invented for use in Pho soup and other traditional Vietnamese foods, Sriracha sauce has since infiltrated much of the Asian food industry, now widely used even by top Sushi chefs to spice up a range of rolls and dishes.
As Sriracha’s popularity grew, so did curiosity and an era of experimentation began. Users quickly discovered its endless versatility and compatibility with many different types of food including pizza, noodles, meat marinades, burgers, the list could go on for days…
“I’ll do what I want”, an enterprising gourmet chef exclaimed as he squeezed a glob of Sriracha sauce into a batch of hand-churned ice cream. You can now find Sriracha in many dessert dishes, making people jump with joy or plummet into speechless confusion at the fact that somehow, it works!
Legend has it that Sriracha is good on absolutely everything. Everything edible, at least. Go ahead, spice up the whole menu! Try out one of these delicious, unique recipes or create your own!
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Although churning out sweet and spicy bottles of Huy Fong Food’s Sriracha is a rewarding task of saucy splendor all on its own, it’s even more gratifying to find the internet peppered with odes, ballads, sonnets, fiery love proclamations and vows of undying devotion from the unabashed cult following Sriracha has amassed over the years.
Sriracha loves you, too!
Huy Fong Foods has three delicious creations, each made with all natural California grown peppers. The three sauces all start from the same base of ingredients, however, each sauce ends as a character of its own.
“Hot sauce must be hot. If you don’t like it hot, use less. We don’t make mayonnaise here.” – David Tran
Available in 8 oz., 18 oz., and 8.50 lbs. sizes.
Available in 9 oz., 17 oz., 28 oz., and 8.50 lbs sizes.
Available in 8 oz., 18oz., and 8.50 lbs. sizes.
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