From Technology Professionals to Restaurant Owners.
My husband Jeff and I are both immigrants as the result at the ending of the Vietnam war. He came over with his family in 1975, while my family and I were stuck in Communist Vietnam. My Mom sent me out of a boat to escape in 1978 as a teenager. There was no money to have all of us escaped as a family while my Father was in re-education camp so I was "selected" to make the unknown journey myself. Long story short, I stayed in refugee camp for 11 months and was sponsored by Lutheran Social Services of Minneapolis and came to the US in 1979. I graduated from college and worked in the Information Technology field for 16 years. My husband was an industrial engineer and Information System Analyst for years until 2002 when he wanted to open his own restaurant (we wondered where we went wrong there :-). I joined him in his restaurant venture in 2005.
Not the one who like to cook, I often dined out and got sick quite often. For many years, I did not know why I had bouts of "purging activities" in the middle of the days, during the nights, at all unexpected time and hours. Every time I got sick, it felt like I was about to die. There were many very scary moments. All of my doctors thought it was stress-induced. I went through numerous heart, brain test/scans. What I had - as I described to them was the thing in Vietnam we called it "Hit by the bad wind". I know, it sounded completely ridiculous but it was the symptom that many Vietnamese get and that was the "diagnose". How to cure? Rub Tiger Balm all over your body and use a spoon, some metal object and scrape your skin to get rid "of the bad wind". Normally, one would get very tired and sleep for hours and got up, felt weak but everything was fine again. One day I was recommended to see another neurologist. He asked for my daily activities and eating habits. At the end, he gave me a list of food I should not eat as I have what he called: Food allergy/sensitivity that will launch into a major migraine. The things that were on the list that I should avoid: MSG, Caffeine, Chocolate, Food coloring...I thought my life was going to end right there and then as I consumed and loved all the items he told me to stop consuming.
So, when we opened our restaurant, I needed to make sure we cook the way that I can safely eat.
In 2007, a couple of our customers asked if we can make their food gluten-free. Not knowing what it was, I did some quick research and went on my way to create recipes and sauces that take care of me and take care of gluten-intolerant and Celiacs people. We also know that in order for our restaurant to be successful, our food need to be consistent. Coming from corporate background, we also know that we need to have processes and standards so that training of our staff is easier. People also began to ask to purchase our sauces to take home to cook for their friends and families. Out of town people brought us their glass jars to put our sauce in. We never given seriously thought about manufacturing and bottling our sauces as that whole process just seem so complicated, involving and rather scary. Then one day, as we were looking at the fridge at Cheese Cake Factory and their bottled sauces, we thought we should model that.
Our Sauces Were Created!
We were blessed to meet the owner of Hot Sauce 911 who came to eat at our place from his business trip from Chicago in 2008. He showed us how to get our recipes tested by a Food Scientist and how to have a Co-Packer cook and package our sauces. With Celiacs disease came to the forefront of the culinary needs, we decided to do ALL of our sauces (with the exception of one) to be all gluten-free. Then some people need soy-free so we came out with some and then vegan and the rest is history. We have a total of 14 sauces in our line.