Entrepreneur finds the sweet spot of hot sauce

Barbara Hootman

Hot sauce is a hot seller. It comes in just about every degree of hot and spicy. Most people want heat and flavor but not so much burn. Fire on the Mountain Hot Sauce satisfies many hot sauce lovers’ taste with sweet heat.

Keenan Kulp, a hot sauce lover and owner of Fire on the Mountain Hot Sauce, said he eats hot sauce every day. He has gone from produce seller to hot sauce maker and loves the role of being a chef in a commercial kitchen making his own unique blend of hot sauce.

“Developing Fire on the Mountain Hot Sauce brought to my attention just how much I like being in the kitchen making a product that is so special,” he said. “I never mind sharing information about what ingredients are in my sauce, because nobody can make it like I do.”

Fire on the Mountain Hot Sauce was created as a result of the continuing support for locally grown and produced products - and Kulp’s determination.

“In 2008 I went to the WNC Farmers Market curious to find out if the farmers had excess produce that they couldn’t sell,” he said. “I soon realized they had a lot more than I ever imagined. The produce I got was perfect for canning and dehydrating.

“Originally I planned to open a cannery where the excess produce could be preserved and return the money to the farmers. At the end of the second season I started selling the excess produce to local restaurants that were assured of good quality locally grown produce.

“It was time consuming and a lot of hard work. I also helped several farmers at the WNC Farmers Market sort produce. I kept a small portion of the money I made with the produce stand and gave the rest back to the farmers.”

Kulp grew up on a small organic farm in Madison County where his parents taught him to grow produce and can seasonal vegetables.

“Now it seems that my calling is to pass that knowledge along and make my own sauce,” he said. “I am passionate about hot sauce, from eating to talking about it. I know instantly when my sauce is perfect.”

Fire on the Mountain Hot Sauce is made of hickory and cherry wood-smoked apples, char-roast peppers, pineapple, habanero peppers, char-roasted Anahiem and bell peppers, caramelized onions, garlic, vinegar, olive oil unrefined Celtic sea salt and fresh squeezed lemon juice.

“I cook the sauce in a commercial kitchen and meet all the standards of health and cleanliness, then bottle and label it,” Kulp said. In Black Mountain, it is sold at Louise’s Kitchen, Common House Fly and Artisan Gourmet Market.

Charissa Gulotta, one of the owners of Louise’s Kitchen, keeps a supply of Fire on the Mountain Hot Sauce for the restaurants’ diners.

“We especially like Fire on the Mountain because it is the only hot sauce of the many we have available that is habanero and Anahiem pepper-based, which along with the other ingredients gives it a special flavor,” she said.

Within the next week a Kickstarter Campaign go up to help Kulp take his business to the next level.

Kulp works at Town Hardware and General Store in Black Mountain. This time next year he plans for his sauce to be on the shelves at Ingle’s supermarkets, Whole Foods and Earth Fare food markets. Kulp can be reached at 337-8562.